By Charlie Finnerty | [email protected]
Howard Beach resident and 20-year criminal attorney, Michael Mossa, is challenging incumbent Melinda Katz to become Queens’ District Attorney. With endorsements from both the Republican and Conservative parties of Queens County, Mossa is up against difficult odds, aiming to become the first Republican elected to the office in over 100 years while facing a popular Democratic District Attorney who herself only narrowly defeated firebrand progressive Tiffany Cabán in her 2019 primary. Mossa said he hopes to win over moderate Democrats to push him towards a successful campaign. The close vote tallies in Queens for the recent Governor and Attorney General elections suggest he may have a shot.
“People are so angry, especially in these neighborhoods with a higher Republican concentration of voters,” Mossa said. “Even if it’s 25% or 30%, that’s high in the city and the Democrats there are more likely to be conservative.”
In her June primary this year, Katz won 71%, or 37,762 votes, defeating retired judge and NYPD deputy commissioner George Grasso to her right, and progressive defense lawyer Devian Daniels to her left, who received roughly 14% of the vote each. As Queens voters — particularly in the western parts of the borough — become more progressive, Katz has staked out a brand as a moderating voice in local Democratic politics, implementing some criminal justice reforms but maintaining her mainstream appeal, bolstered by an endorsement from Mayor Eric Adams. Mossa wants to redefine that image to convince voters that Katz’s leadership is too far to the left of Queens communities.
Mossa — who previously ran for city council in Howard Beach and Rockaway in 2003 and lost to current New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo — said he would like to see the District Attorney’s office pursue shoplifting crimes with the same fervor they prosecute domestic abuse cases with, the one area where Mossa said he feels Katz’ office is strong.
“They do a very good job in that office handling domestic violence, their top prosecutors are on it. It is important, primarily it does protect women, but they have it because it’s politically safe for them,” Mossa said. “ Why don’t they prosecute shoplifting? Because it’s not politically safe. I will deal with shoplifting in only three ways: Prosecute, prosecute, and prosecute. If you’re gonna steal, you’re gonna go to jail.”
This year, Katz has pursued initiatives herself to tackle shoplifting. Most notably, a partnership with the NYPD and local businesses to issue trespassing notices to individuals reported by business owners, along with an arrest warning if they return, is being rolled out across the borough and has recieved praise.
Mossa, who has legal experience in landlord-tenant litigation and criminal court, said he is concerned with the direction the city’s politics are changing with leftward momentum to empower tenants at the cost of landlords, allow low-level crimes like shoplifting to go unpunished and reform the criminal justice system. These broad political movements, Mossa said, are responsible for an environment more conducive to crime and repeat offenders.
“This is a DA who’s concerned about criminalizing poverty,” Mossa said. “That’s why they allow shoplifting. That’s where bail reform came from. That’s their slogan and they did a lot of damage to every major city in this country including ours. And I mean the radical left that controls the Democratic Party in the cities.”
Mossa also strongly opposed the city’s plan to close Rikers Island.
“Jail isn’t supposed to be pleasant,” Mossa said. “I’m not one to say ‘Oh a prisoner got beaten up, he got what he deserved.’ No, he deserved to be in jail, he doesn’t deserve to be beaten up by another inmate.”