In a stunning move mere days before the election, Rory Lancman announced Friday that he’s dropping out of the Queens district attorney race to endorse rival Melinda Katz.
The decision was just as much about old-school Queens Democrats circling the wagons to ensure insurgent Tiffany Caban – a young public defender being endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – doesn’t win as it was about backing Katz, the borough president whom Lancman harshly attacked during the campaign, sources said.
“The numbers are simply not there for me to win this Tuesday’s Democratic primary,” said Lancman, a city councilman.
“And I owe it to the voters, and particularly to my supporters, to acknowledge that fact and withdraw from the race.”
Lancman, who was joined by Katz at a Queens press conference in making the announcement, attributed his bowing out to being “especially concerned about causing a split in the South Queens vote” and “effectively diluting the voice of the community most impacted by the decisions our next DA must make.”
South Queens consists of predominately African-American communities, a critical vote in borough primary races.
Gov. Cuomo also is backing Katz.
One Queens Democratic Party official told The Post that Lancman did the right thing.
“If you’re Rory, you don’t want to play spoiler. You don’t want to burn down the house. It’s a big blow to Queens County if we lose this race,” said the official, who requested anonymity.
Caban has scored many key endorsements – including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — but it’s Ocasio-Cortez endorsement that is perhaps the most intriguing.
Political pundits have said Caban’s campaign could be a key test in determining how much clout Ocasio-Cortez will have heading into the 2020 elections.
The Democratic socialist has dominated headlines and pushed her party even more left since stunning former Queens party boss and 10-term Rep. Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary last year.
Crowley is backing Katz for district attorney.
“It’s no surprise that the establishment is closing ranks as Tiffany surges. There’s only one independent candidate in this race fighting for real justice for working people — and that’s Tiffany,” said Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for Caban.
Lancman insisted he wasn’t pressured to withdraw and wasn’t promised anything.
But sources noted it just so happens that the state Legislature passed a new law creating a new judgeship in Queens.
In a bizarre twist, Lancman, who was the first candidate to announce for DA, received a scathing letter Thursday from Rachel Graham Kagan, his chief of staff and legislative counsel, saying she was resigning over his decision to drop out of the race and endorse Katz.
“With your decision to leave the race and endorse Melinda Katz, you have taken a position that represents the antithesis of everything we have stood for in our government work and throughout your campaign,” Graham Kagan wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Post.
“I could no longer credibly maintain that I am devoted to changing the status quo—which, in Queens especially, is untenable and profoundly cruel—if I stood by silently in the face of a selection that does nothing but bolster and entrench it for the 2.3 million people of Queens, perhaps more than any other single decision that you or I has made in the last two and a half years I have worked in your office.”
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