NYC Politicians Flock To Open Public Advocate Position
By Trevor Kroells – Syracuse, N.Y. (CitrusTV) – Last May, then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned after several sexual assault accusations were leveled against him. Barbra Underwood was appointed to replace him, and prior to her appointment Ms. Underwood stated that she would not seek election to the position, leaving the field open for new candidates to run.
On Thursday many New Yorkers headed to the State Democratic Primary to nominate a new candidate for the position. Four candidates made it onto the ballot, and Letitia James won a plurality of the votes.
Similar to many other races across the country, this race was seen as the establishment against the progressives. Ms. James won her first election as a member of the Working Families Party, and many assumed she would do the same in this race. But she instead aligned her campaign with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who also won his primary on Thursday, and turned down the WFP’s nomination, many believed this was done at the directive of the Governor, although both Ms. James and Governor Cuomo denied this.
This relationship was a main point of contention between the four candidates, with many questioning whether her relationship would be a conflict in any cases involving the governor. But throughout many attacks by her opponents, Ms. James maintained that she would remain free of bias.
In November Ms. James will be running against Republican nominee Keith Wofford in the general election. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by over two to one in New York, making James the favorite to win in November. This will mark the first statewide election between two African-Americans and the first African-American Attorney General in New York.
Ms. James’ nomination has also sparked another conversation, if she does win in November, she will vacate the office of Public Advocate for the city of New York and trigger a special election. With Ms. James being the favorite to win, many have already started discussing who will run for the position.
If the mayor were to leave office before their term is complete, the New York City Public Advocate would become the new mayor. There other actions taken by the office are usually dictated by whomever holds the office. Previously held by current mayor Bill de Blasio and now Ms. James, many see the office as a starting point for people with aspirations of running for higher citywide or statewide positions.
Given the resume bolstering nature of the position, coupled with the fact that mayor Bill de Blasio will not be able to seek reelection due to term limits, there is a large incentive to use this position to start an early mayoral campaign.
The current list of people who have expressed interest in running includes many current and former city councilmembers, as well as Democrats who lost in primaries.
Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams has widely stated that he wants to run for mayor in 2021. While he remains set on the mayor’s seat, with over a million dollars in campaign funds already in his account, a successful run for Public Advocate could be a useful stepping stone for his mayoral aspirations.
Former New York City Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito has expressed interest in the position.
Ms. Mark-Viverito told The New York Times, “I’ve always said if an opportunity became available, it’s something I would explore.”
Having only left the council in 2017, Ms. Mark-Viverito still has strong name recognition and could likely draw back many of her old supporters. Ms. Mark-Viverito could be one of the more progressive candidates. She had a strong relationship with mayor de Blasio, and has been highly critical of governor Cuomo, even endorsing his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon.
Another former City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, is another possible candidate, rumored to be considering a run. After becoming the first female and openly gay speaker in 2006, Ms. Quinn lost in the 2013 mayoral primaries and could be looking to improve her qualifications before making another attempt at the mayor’s office.
Ms. Quinn was hired by Governor Cuomo as a special advisor in 2015, if she were to get his support when running it could give her a leg up on the competition, in addition to her name recognition from her past campaigns.
Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams could also be considered a strong contender for the position. Mr. Williams ran for the position of Lieutenant Governor against incumbent Kathy Hochul and drew impressive numbers and came very close to winning, drawing huge support in New York City, receiving more votes than Ms. Hochul in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Mr. Williams did far better than his running mate, Ms. Nixon, and coming as close as he did makes him a fierce progressive candidate. Having this much established support in the city would make this a good race for him to advance his career.
If a special election does occur, there is sure to be a slew of candidates who decide to throw their hat in the ring. Some of these candidates could decide to run for mayor without going through the Public Advocate office. But there are many more democrats who would greatly benefit from the boost in recognition that the post would provide.
No matter which specific candidates decide to run, it is likely that we would see a fight between “establishment” and “progressive” democrats, as we have seen in so many other races across the state and country.