(Chuck Muth) – When was the last time a local race for district attorney made national news?
Answer: This morning.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting at the time of this column, Tiffany Cabán is leading in the Democrat primary for Queens district attorney in New York by 1,090 votes, with some 3,400 absentee ballots still to be counted.
But with a six-candidate field, it’s unlikely the runner up, Melinda Katz – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s and the political establishment’s pick – will be able overtake the 31-year-old insurgent, who declared victory Tuesday night.
And while this race probably wasn’t on the radar screen for 99 percent of the American electorate, it was a closely watched race by commercial sex workers. Why?
Because Cabán, a public defender, ran on a platform of comprehensive criminal justice reform. And she said that if elected she would issue a memo “on day one” instructing her attorneys to stop prosecuting sex workers and/or their clients.
Cabán added, however, that her office would continue to maintain a hard line against non-consensual sex trafficking and sexual assaults.
In other words, she hasn’t bought into the puritan propaganda of prostitution abolitionists who falsely equate voluntary “sex work” with involuntary “sex trafficking.”
“Through decriminalization,” Cabán said in a recent interview, “you make it safe for survivors and victims to go to law enforcement and be the witnesses needed to hold these traffickers, who are doing harm, accountable.”
If Cabán goes on to win the general election in November, BuzzFeed notes “it would mark one of the biggest successes for the sex work decriminalization movement that, after years of struggling to gain mainstream traction, has growing popularity and political influence across the country.”
Still, declining to prosecute cases isn’t the same as changing the law – though the New York Legislature is currently mulling just such a bill.
“When we talk about decriminalization, we’re talking about consenting adults,” said Julia Salazar, who introduced the bill in the Senate. “Anything that involved children or coercion are things that we feel very strongly need to remain in the penal code.”
The bill was expected to face an uphill battle, but it’ll be interesting to see if Cabán’s stunning victory shifts the political landscape to any significant degree.
Currently, prostitution in the United States is only legal in a handful of licensed and regulated brothels in rural Nevada, but not Las Vegas and Reno.
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a limited-government grassroots advocacy organization, and government affairs counsel to the Nevada Brothel Association