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Tiffany Cabán, a public defender, is campaigning to

Tiffany Cabán, a public defender, is campaigning to become Queens district attorney. Credit: Tiffany Caban campaign

Daily Point

Bigger than the borough

On Tuesday, registered Democrats in Queens will vote in a primary for the borough’s district attorney.

But if you think the only people watching this race are those in Queens, think again.

The election has become a symbol of party politics, and in particular, the battle for control over the Democratic Party, not only in Queens, but across the city, state and even nationally. In the final days of the heated campaign, it’s not surprising that race and religion are taking center stage.

Several Orthodox Jewish rabbinical leaders in Queens have emerged with strongly worded, pointed columns in local newspapers, statements, and even videos saying that public defender and DA candidate Tiffany Cabán would be bad for the Jewish community. They link Cabán to her ally Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently came under fire for calling immigration detention centers “concentration camps,” and to controversial Women’s March founder Linda Sarsour, who has been accused of anti-Semitism. Cabán also has been endorsed by Democratic presidential contenders Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

“There is one candidate running for this office who should raise a clear alarm for the Jewish community, based on her rhetoric and political affiliations,” Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld wrote in the Queens Jewish Link last week. “As the Democrats struggle to keep the party centered, its progressive left wing is pulling it to dangerously anti-Semitic levels in our own backyard.”

Late last week, two other Orthodox rabbis produced a video condemning Cabán and endorsing Queens Borough President Melinda Katz that quickly spread via social media to other Jewish organizations.

“How can we expect a district attorney to prosecute hate crimes when she won’t consider acts against Jews as acts of hate because she affiliates and is endorsed by people who are active anti-Semites?” Rabbi Hayim Schwartz said in the video. “If the thought and the concept of someone who is anti Jewish winning district attorney bothers you …, then get up out of your seat on Tuesday June 25 and go and vote. We should all vote and make sure that our next district attorney is Melinda Katz.”

Interestingly, the candidate who’s been closest to the Orthodox Jewish community was, until last week, Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents Queens communities with a significant Orthodox Jewish population. But Lancman dropped out of the race, throwing his support behind Katz. Their joint announcement was held at New Jerusalem Worship Center in South Jamaica, where they were joined by Pastor Calvin Rice, perhaps an indication of just how important religion is in this race.

Lancman has said he just didn’t have the poll numbers to win, and didn’t want to split the vote. But early Friday, the same day Lancman, a Columbia University law school graduate who has been active in criminal justice initiatives, dropped out, the State Legislature approved the addition of three new state Supreme Court justice slots for New York City -- including one in Queens.

So, as key Queens political forces fight for the future of the party, could Lancman end up as a state Supreme Court justice?

Time will tell. For now, Tuesday’s race is the focus -- where block-by-block turnout, and every religious leader’s endorsement, could make a difference.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Buying time

$1,833 per second.

That’s about how much Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spent on Facebook ads alone for every fleeting instant of attention she’ll get at the Thursday debate, assuming a generous 10 minutes of airtime for each candidate on the stage.

Many of those ads were geared toward fundraising to get her in the debates, spending that put her among the leaders in Facebook ad disbursements, according to the social media giant’s political ad archive.

Gillibrand spent more than $1.1 million on Facebook for her presidential run in the year from May 2018 to June 19, 2019, plus $860,000 for her Senate run.

For context, top-tier candidate Elizabeth Warren spent some $1.5 million on Facebook from her presidential campaign. Gillibrand has been in the same Facebook spending realm as Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar and spent more than Pete Buttigieg or Beto O’Rourke, who doubled down on digital advertising during his U.S. Senate run in Texas, including more than $8 million on Facebook over the same period.

What now for Gillibrand, as the main narrative in the national media is how someone touted as a top-tier contender failed to gain any traction?

Her campaign seems to hope she’ll outlast some of the back of the pack and remain as a tested option, and she has the funds to continue long past her first debate. But that’s money being burned as she waits to catch fire.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

A modern-day Roosevelt

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Quick Points

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders says his plan to forgive all $1.6 trillion of student debt in the United States is a matter of fairness — though two-thirds of its benefit would go to the top 40 percent of earners.
  • Two U.S. senators are introducing legislation to require Facebook, Google, Amazon and their peers to disclose the value of their users’ data. Their users already know the answer — it’s priceless.
  • Leaked vetting documents about prospective hires written by President Donald Trump’s transition team reveal that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s many red flags included his remark that Trump “is not a very good person,” numerous worries about Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani included his many “foreign entanglements,” and ethics-addled former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt had potential conflicts of interest due to his “coziness with big energy companies.” Makes you wonder what it took for anyone to get rejected.
  • The White House says news coverage of President Donald Trump has been 93 percent negative. At the risk of hiking that number up, has it been verified?
  • The White House has buried dozens of studies by Agriculture Department-funded scientists that found, among other things, that climate change could worsen allergy seasons and reduce the quality of grass used to feed cattle and that rice loses its vitamins in a carbon-rich environment. Pardon us for repeating ourselves, but hiding it is not going to make climate change go away.
  • The opposition candidate won the re-race for mayor of Istanbul after the ruling party of Turkish strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan got Ekrem Imamoglu’s first victory in March voided. Imamoglu won by a bigger margin the second time. This would be a good time to remember the pre-election comment of former Istanbul mayor Erdogan: “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.”
  • After New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway blew up at Newsday reporter Tim Healey for asking about the bullpen’s performance in a 5-3 loss to the Cubs and pitcher Jason Vargas physically threatened Healey, the Mets apologized for the incident. Perhaps they also should apologize for their bullpen.
  • Here’s a guess: None of the candidates taking the stage for this week’s Democratic presidential primaries will be as successful at staying in the middle as Nik and Lijana Wallenda were on their high wire over Times Square on Sunday night.

-  Michael Dobie @mwdobie


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