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Katz is the Declared Winner of the Dem Primary, But the Queens DA Race is Far From Over

Theodore Hamm Jul 31

Here are some things to watch out for as the court battles in the Queens DA race commence Wednesday morning.

The Count

On Monday, the Board of Elections certified Melinda Katz as the winner by 60 votes. But prior to the recount, the Queens BoE rejected more than 500 affidavit ballots because the form accompanying the ballot envelope was not properly completed. 

However, as Tiffany Caban’s lead lawyer Jerry Goldfeder told the New York Times, it’s the BoE poll workers’ responsibility to make sure the forms are filled out correctly. This line of argument could open the door to a significant number of the rejected ballots getting counted.  

The only certain number released thus far is the 114 rejected because they didn’t state “Democratic Party” (a redundant point given that the election was a Democratic primary). Last week Goldfeder told reporters that there at least “dozens” more that will be challenged, with “wrong polling site” rejections in that category.    

The Judge  

Judge John Ingram was brought in from Brooklyn Supreme Court because of his independence from the Queens Democratic machine, which controls the courthouses. Ingram is a Republican known to travel in the same circles as far-right Mike Long, the former Conservative Party boss. 

Ingram has a reputation as a “by the book” judge, which may lead him to allow the BoE’s rejections. He also has political ties to Marty Connor, the additional election lawyer Katz’s team brought on once Ingram took over the case. In 2002, when Ingram was first named a judge on the New York Court of Claims, Connor was a high-ranking Democratic member of the State Senate, which approves judicial appointments.  

Connor was no longer a State Senator in 2013 when Governor Cuomo sent over Ingram’s name for Senate approval as an interim Brooklyn Supreme judge. Ingram, then 70, had aged out of the Court of Claims, but the Supreme retirement age is 76. Cuomo was thus doing Ingram a favor. Meanwhile, between 2012 and 2016, Connor was paid $85,000 in legal fees by Cuomo’s allies at the IDC. 

In 2018, Ingram counteracted the Brooklyn DA (and by extension, the Brooklyn Democratic machine) when, as Acting Surrogate Court Judge, he ruled against Ken Thompson’s widow in an estate battle. That said, it seems highly unlikely that he will rule in Caban’s favor.  

Next Steps

Regardless of how Ingram rules, his decision can be appealed. The first stage would be the 2nd Appellate Division (AD), after which the Court of Appeals (CoA) would have the final say (at the state level). In a recent ruling, the CoA narrowly overturned a pro-election reform ruling by an upstate Supreme Court and affirmed by that region’s AD. Both the AD and CoA rulings would happen quickly. 

Once the state process runs its course, the next option is the federal courts, which many observers view as a more favorable route. To be continued…