Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/578 Thu, 21 Feb 2019 04:08:33 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ydanis Rodriguez http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8296-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-ydanis-rodriguez http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8296-max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-ydanis-rodriguez mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


February 20, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ydanis Rodriguez

ydanis rod wbai277City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez joined the show to discuss his candidacy for Public Advocate just days beofre the February 26 vote.

Listen to the conversation with the two candidates and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ydanis Rodriguez Wed, 20 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
7 Candidates Qualify for Second Public Advocate Special Election Debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8290-7-candidates-qualify-for-second-public-advocate-special-election-debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8290-7-candidates-qualify-for-second-public-advocate-special-election-debate Public Advocate debate 10 candidates

The first debate (photo: Holly Pickett for The New York Times (pool))


Seven candidates running in the special election for New York City Public Advocate have qualified for the second and final official televised debate, which will take place Wednesday night, just six days ahead of the February 26 election.

There will be 17 candidates on the ballot, 10 of whom qualified for the first televised debate. Now, for the “leading contenders” debate, seven candidates met the threshold set by city law, which includes raising and spending $170,813, according to a spokesperson for the city’s Campaign Finance Board. Candidates made their latest filings to the Campaign Finance Board by midnight Friday.

The seven candidates who will debate Wednesday night on NY1 television are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, attorney Dawn Smalls, activist Nomiki Konst, City Council Members Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal, and state Assemblymembers Michael Blake and Ron Kim.

Of the ten candidates who made the first debate, City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Eric Ulrich and Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell did not meet the threshold for the second debate.

To make it into the “leading contenders” debate, the candidates then had till February 11 to raise and spend $170,813 and needed to be endorsed by an elected official representing New York City at the local, state or federal level, or by a membership organization with at least 250 members in the city (a labor union or political club, for instance).

Ulrich, the only Republican at the first debate, Rodriguez, and O’Donnell did not meet the financial threshold for the second debate.

At the first debate on February 6, the ten candidates made their pitches to city voters and weighed in on everything from funding for the MTA and NYCHA to the then-happening Amazon deal, and their disagreements with Mayor Bill de Blasio. To qualify for that debate, the candidates were required to show $56,938 in campaign fundraising and expenditure by the filing due just before the debate.

[Read: In First Debate, Public Advocate Candidates Take on De Blasio, Amazon & Each Other]

The debate at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (February 20) will broadcast by Spectrum News NY1 and will be publicly accessible on NY1’s website and Facebook page. It will also be simulcast by NYC Life, the city’s media channel. The hour-and-a-half debate will again be moderated by Errol Louis of NY1, with questions also coming from Laura Nahmias of Politico New York and Bobby Cuza of NY1.

The public advocate special election was triggered after the former office-holder Letitia James was elected New York State Attorney General. James filled a vacancy created by the resignation of former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in the wake of allegations of physical abuse by several intimate partners.

The public advocate is a watchdog over city government and an ombudsperson, with the power to introduce legislation to the City Council. The public advocate is also first in line to the mayor if the mayor is unable to serve out his or her full term. The position helped launch James to become attorney general, and her predeccessor, Bill de Blasio, to become mayor.

The sponsors of the debate include Politico New York, Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters, the Latino Leadership Institute, Borough of Manhattan Community College, NAACP New York State Conference Metropolitan Council, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., East Kings County Alumnae Chapter.

Beyond the ten candidates who made the first debate, the other candidates on the February 26 ballot will be Benjamin Yee, Manny Alicandro, David Eisenbach, Jared Rich, Tony Herbert, Helal Sheikh, and Latrice Walker, an Assembly member who has dropped out of the race but was unable to have her name removed from the ballot.

The election, open to all registered voters across the city, is expected to be low turnout. The winner will hold the seat at least through the end of this year -- there will be a primary election this June and a general election this November to determine who holds the seat for 2020 and 2021.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

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7 Candidates Qualify for Second Public Advocate Special Election Debate Sat, 16 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
In First Debate, Public Advocate Candidates Take on De Blasio, Amazon & Each Other http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8263-in-first-debate-public-advocate-candidates-take-on-de-blasio-amazon-each-other http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8263-in-first-debate-public-advocate-candidates-take-on-de-blasio-amazon-each-other Public Advocate debate Feb 6 2019

photo: Holly Pickett for The New York Times (pool)

(l-r) Danny O'Donnell, Jumaane Williams Michael Blake, Rafael Espinal, Erich Ulrich, Ron Kim, Ydanis Rodriguez, Dawn Smalls, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Nomiki Konst


With 10 candidates on stage and less than three weeks until election day, there were some sharp elbows at the first of two televised debates Wednesday night in the race to be the city’s next Public Advocate. The citywide special election is February 26.

The candidates, including eight current or former elected officials, debated for two hours on NY1, discussing where they disagree with Mayor Bill de Blasio, what should be done about the crises enveloping public housing and public transit, whether they support the deal to bring an Amazon campus to Queens, and much more. There was a lot of finger-pointing on NYCHA and the MTA, among the city and state elected officials on the stage, and from them at the mayor and the governor.

Most of the candidates agreed on a lot, while at times there were slight degrees of disagreement among the nine Democrats, while the lone Republican, City Council Member Eric Ulrich, was often more of an outlier. On some issues, like what to do about admissions to the city’s specialized high schools and whether the city should have control of the subways and buses, there was more diversity of opinion. The candidates mostly agreed that the Amazon deal was done in a bad process and took an unacceptable form, with too much secrecy and subsidy; that there should be a congestion pricing program implemented in the city; and that the city needs to kick in more funding for the MTA.

Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former City Council speaker, was the candidate most frequently attacked by opponents, perhaps indicating her status as a perceived frontrunner, while City Council Member Jumaane Williams, also thought to be at the head of the pack, was also targeted on multiple occasions, including by Mark-Viverito and state Assembly Member Michael Blake over where Williams has stood on abortion and marriage equality.

The debate provided a venue for voters to get to know 10 of the 17 candidates who will be on the ballot, how they come across in such a setting, and their positions on a wide range of issues. The job the candidates are applying for is supposed to be a watchdog over city government and an ombudsperson to whom regular New Yorkers can go with complaints and looking for assistance. The public advocate has the power to introduce legislation to the City Council. 

Along with Mark-Viverito, Williams, Ulrich, and Blake, the other candidates in the debate were journalist Nomiki Konst, attorney Dawn Smalls, City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Rafael Espinal, and Assembly Members Danny O’Donnell and Ron Kim.

For those who want a public advocate inclined to use the bully pulpit the position provides, a debate may provide special insight. While all of the candidates spoke with energy and passion, Mark-Viverito and Konst were especially assertive, including arguing with each other at times, even as they sat inches away from one another. Konst argued that her skills as an investigative journalist and her lack of ties to the political system uniquely qualify her to be the public advocate, and said that the position needs a non-politician.

“The public advocate needs to be a loudmouth on your behalf,” O’Donnell said in his opening statement, though the long-time representative of the Upper West Side and former public defender was one of the more passive participants in the debate, staying out of the fray and repeatedly stating his agreements with Smalls, who was also mostly on the sidelines when there were pockets of open discussion or back-and-forths among candidates.

O’Donnell did point to reasons New Yorkers should trust his independence, like his refusal to sign a letter asking Amazon to come to New York and his efforts leading ethics investigations in the Assembly. Smalls highlighted her work in the Obama administration and her plan to focus on helping homeless families if elected public advocate.

“I’m concerned about the direction of our city,” Espinal said early on. “As a born and raised New Yorker, I feel that the city that never sleeps is getting tired. Tired of the broken MTA, tired of the cost of living, tired of seeing community gardens and green spaces being bulldozed.”

Along with the MTA, NYCHA, and Amazon, affordability was a consistent theme throughout the night. Mark-Viverito, Williams, Blake, and others talked about increasing affordable housing in the city, while Smalls said the city must prioritize homeless families with young children when housing those coming out of shelters. O’Donnell called for down-zoning across the city so that development would only happen with more community input, Konst repeatedly said the power of big real estate interests was suffocating the city, and Kim railed against corporate giveaways.

For those who might want their public advocate to be a strong legislator, the debate offered some help, especially with so many current or former lawmakers on stage. Candidates were able to highlight legislative accomplishments or offer plans for a bill they would introduce if elected, but not all of them spoke in detail about their legislative records.

Ulrich cited his bill to create the city’s Department of Veterans Affairs (making it an agency, not just an office within the Mayor’s Office) and said he would push for the public advocate’s office to have more teeth -- something O’Donnell and Konst agreed with, while Blake said the public advocate should get a seat on the MTA Board. Rodriguez said he would push a bill to allow immigrants with green cards and work permits to be able to vote in local elections. Konst said she would champion a $30 minimum wage for city workers and employees at companies with more than 75 employees.

Williams highlighted his vote against a city program to mandate affordable housing units in upzoned properties or neighborhoods, and criticized Mark-Viverito for ushering it through the Council when she was speaker, a move she said she was proud of, given that Mandatory Inclusionary Housing was a historic progressive change in the city’s land use rules. Williams believes it didn’t go far enough.

If holding the mayor, especially the current mayor, accountable is important to you as a voter, the candidates had plenty of opportunity to explain their approach to that part of the job. Asked for one major policy disagreement with Mayor de Blasio, the candidates gave a variety of answers.

Mark-Viverito, largely a de Blasio ally for most of his first term, said that she had many disagreements with him. After having said in her opening statement that she had pushed the mayor on closing the Rikers Island jails and “decriminalizing” low-level, non-violent offenses, she later said a “major flaw” of the de Blasio administration “is the lack of serious community engagement in major decisions that are being made.”

Konst and Kim cited the Amazon deal, while she also mentioned neighborhood rezonings as a major area of disagreement with the mayor. O’Donnell said similarly, citing overdevelopment.

Williams said no one who knows him doubts his willingness to call out the mayor, but said he’s also worked with de Blasio on a lot, before focusing in on policing. “We’re better than where we were,” he said. “It’s a low bar but we’re better.” Still, Williams said, on NYPD transparency and accountability, de Blasio had failed.

Blake took issue with the theme of de Blasio’s tenure, saying the mayor’s approach to “equity” was off in a variety of ways. “We should be building schools, not jails,” he said. He also mentioned lead paint in NYCHA, a topic on which he pointed to Mark-Viverito, who defended her record on the issue by citing increased funding, creating a Council committee to focus on public housing, and more. It was one of several tense exchanges where Mark-Viverito forcefully defended herself. In other instances, Espinal challenged her about constituent support in her district and Konst took her on over her support for the East Harlem rezoning.

Rodriguez said the mayor’s lack of support for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would institute new rules about commercial tenant leasing, was a source of frustration, and he also used the moment to say that Mark-Viverito had not been willing to allow a hearing on the bill as speaker, whereas her successor, Corey Johnson, did.

Ulrich, as expected, separated himself most clearly from his opponents on issues, especially in his opposition to closing the Rikers Island jail complex, his support for Amazon to come to Queens, and his opposition to congestion pricing (all the other candidates said yes to congestion pricing). He also claimed that he would be Mayor de Blasio’s “worst nightmare” as public advocate.

“Right now we have an absentee mayor who seems more interested in raising his national profile and running for president even than he is actually tending to the day to day affairs of the city and addressing city problems,” Ulrich said early on.

Ulrich did have to defend himself at times -- after he referred to those on Rikers as “criminals,” several of his opponents jumped in to remind him that most of the people held in the city’s jails are pre-trial, not convicted of any crime, and often incarcerated because they cannot pay bail. And, Ulrich was asked by Smalls during the cross-examination round to explain whether he supports President Donald Trump, to which he answered that he did not support Trump in the 2016 Republican primary (he backed John Kasich) and disagrees with him on many issues, including a woman’s right to choose, while also listing areas he agrees with him on, like pursuing economic growth and supporting law enforcement.

Both Blake and Mark-Viverito put Williams on the defensive about his support, or lack thereof, for a woman’s right to choose and for marriage equality. Williams has said in the past that he grew up with more conservative, religiously-founded views on those issues but that he has evolved, also at times saying that while he may have a personal view on one or the other issue, that his voting record showed he was consistently supportive of abortion and LGBT rights.

All three of Blake, Williams, and Mark-Viverito were attacked by others for having signed the 2017 letter wooing Amazon, though all three have taken exception to the deal that was reached. Espinal said no one who signed the letter should be elected public advocate, noting that issues with Amazon that have come up during the recent public debate were well-known to those who did their “homework.”

Mark-Viverito said the process getting to the deal was “anti-democratic,” while Williams said signing the letter did not mean taking Amazon under any circumstances, and Blake said there are a variety of “dramatic changes” needed to improve the deal to make it acceptable, such as guarantees around local hiring and unionization.

The debate was moderated by NY1's Errol Louis, who was accompanied in asking questions by NY1's Grace Rauh and Laura Nahmias of Politico New York.

The second debate in the special election will be Wednesday, February 20. It is unclear how many candidates will qualify.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated to clarify that Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said he would introduce a bill allowing only immigrants with green cards and work permits to vote in local elections, not all immigrants. 

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In First Debate, Public Advocate Candidates Take on De Blasio, Amazon & Each Other Wed, 06 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
8 Things to Watch in the First Public Advocate Debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8258-8-things-to-watch-in-the-first-public-advocate-debate-2019-special http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8258-8-things-to-watch-in-the-first-public-advocate-debate-2019-special public advocate candidates


The biggest moment so far in the short, crowded, and contentious race to become the next New York City Public Advocate will be Wednesday night, as 10 qualifying candidates take the stage for the first of two televised debates.

The citywide special election has attracted a wide and deep field of candidates -- there will be 17 names on the February 26 ballot -- including several sitting elected officials, each hoping to become the city’s watchdog and ombudsperson, one of just three citywide elected officials and next in line to the mayor. The public advocate has a lot of responsibility but limited powers, which do include the ability to introduce legislation to the City Council, and a roughly $3 million annual budget.

With 10 candidates on stage, each trying to introduce and differentiate her or himself to voters, the debate could prove somewhat pivotal as contestants try to make their mark, and spur media attention, volunteers, and donors toward their campaigns. The debate may be the first time many voters are paying attention to the race or meeting some, if not all, of the candidates. Below, you’ll find a guide of eight things to watch for in the debate.

But first: while some say the public advocate position should be eliminated or mock it’s relative lack of power, the debate, and the larger election, are important -- the last two public advocates are now the Mayor (Bill de Blasio) and state Attorney General (Letitia James). Meanwhile, before moving on to bigger or simply other things, the public advocate can have significant impact on city government through the bully pulpit, policy reports, legislation, legal action, and coalition building.

The 10 candidates who will participate in the first debate are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, activist Nomiki Konst, attorney Dawn Smalls; State Assembly Members Michael Blake, Ron Kim, and Daniel O’Donnell; and City Council Members Rafael Espinal Jr., Ydanis Rodriguez, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane Williams.

Airing from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday night on NY1 from the CUNY-TV studio in Manhattan, it will be the first of two televised debates in the special election (the second one is February 20). It will be moderated by NY1 political anchor Errol Louis, with questions also coming from panelists including Laura Nahmias of Politico New York. Candidates qualified by hitting the New York City Campaign Finance Board financial raise-and-spend threshold of $56,938, as dictated by city law. The debate will also air on NY1’s website and Facebook page (and on the city’s “NYC Life” channel available on all cable providers, as mandated by a new city law).

Here’s what to watch for in the debate:

1. How will each candidate try to define themselves?
Candidates have a choice to make in terms of how they balance talking about their personal story, their accomplishments, their plans for how they’d run the public advocate’s office, how they would approach Mayor Bill de Blasio, and what sets them apart from their competition. The questions will influence these choices, but candidates can spend their allotted time, including but not limited to any opening and closing statements, returning to their chosen talking points.

There’s a good chance you’ll hear a lot of sentences that start with: “I’m the only candidate in this race...” or “I’m the only one on this stage who…”

Mark-Viverito is likely to stress both her experience leading the City Council, especially on criminal justice reform, and the need for diversity in top city positions, where the current mayor, comptroller and City Council speaker are all white men. Williams will talk about his work as “an activist elected official” who has staked out progressive positions on police reform and affordable housing.

Blake will tout accomplishments by the Democratic majority of the state Assembly like raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, his work for President Barack Obama, and his “jobs and justice” platform in this race. He’ll bill himself as an organizer, a coalition builder. O’Donnell will talk about his independence, exemplified, he’ll say, by his refusal to sign a letter enticing Amazon to consider New York City for a headquarters; and his successful push to pass marriage equality in New York.

Kim will also talk about his opposition to Amazon, while also touting his platform to recreate the public advocate’s office as one focused on helping to eliminate student debt. Espinal will highlight legislative accomplishments, like repeal of an antiquated law limiting which clubs are allowed to host dancing and creation of the Office of Nightlife, and what he’s working on now: legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters as well as other climate-friendly policies. He’ll explain he’s focused on making it easier for everyday New Yorkers to live in this city.

Smalls will discuss her carefully-outlined platform and how she’ll focus the public advocate’s office on four key areas: homelessness, housing, transit, and civic participation; and she’ll highlight her work as an attorney and in the Obama administration. Konst -- who along with Smalls are the only two who have not held elected office -- will fill the “outsider” lane, talking about the need for someone with her independence from the political muck and investigative skills as a journalist to come in and shake things up, call it like it is, and provide real oversight. She’ll stake out far left policy positions like calling for a $30-an-hour minimum wage and vilifying the real estate industry, as well as politicians beholden to it, who she’ll say have caused an affordability crisis in the city.

Rodriguez will talk about his immigrant story and fighting for immigrants during his career as an activist and as an elected official, and explain that’s what he’ll do as public advocate if elected to the post. He’ll also talk a lot about transit and refer to his work as the City Council’s transportation committee chair over the last several years. And Ulrich, the lone registered Republican on the stage, will argue he’s the only one who can truly hold Mayor de Blasio accountable given their widespread disagreements, though he’ll also explain that he’s a “moderate” and “Rockefeller” Republican who is progressive on social issues, perhaps saying that he sees himself in the mold of (now-Democrat) Michael Bloomberg. He may highlight his support for Amazon coming to Queens as the Democrats on the stage mostly criticize the deal.

Everyone will rail against the MTA.

Most of the candidates will express support for congestion pricing, some may also call for a millionaire’s tax to fund subway upgrades or for the city to take control of the subways and buses.

Everyone will say what has gone on at NYCHA is a disgrace. Solutions there, however, may not roll off the tongue.

2. The Elephant in the Room
As the only Republican on the stage, Ulrich has a clear mission in the debate and the broader race: to attract as many moderates and conservatives, independents and Republicans, as possible to pull off a victory in a crowded race where someone could win with 30% of the vote, maybe even less.

While the rest of the candidates will argue over their progressive bona fides, pitching themselves to many of the same voters, Ulrich will likely focus his fire on de Blasio (others will do some of that, too, of course), and position himself as the alternative to a bunch of Democrats trying to out-socialism each other. Ulrich may also have to be clear that he’s not a supporter of Donald Trump -- he backed John Kasich in the 2016 GOP presidential primary and has criticized the president repeatedly, drawing ire from some of his fellow Republicans, though much of the city’s GOP establishment has gotten behind his candidacy. In the City Council, Ulrich very often votes with the Democratic majority while his two fellow Republicans vote “no,” sometimes along with several more conservative Democrats.

3. How negative will it get?
It’s a sprint of a race and a crowded field. The candidates have been traversing the city meeting with clubs and organizations and appearing at candidate forums and debates, which have apparently only had a few tense moments between the candidates, though there have been many comments about some of the perceived frontrunners (Williams, Mark-Viverito, and Blake), along with a few criticisms for others, like Espinal, who has been tweaked for his support of a neighborhood rezoning in his district that some say will (or already is) spur gentrification and displacement.

Candidates will likely mostly stick with more vague comments that include phrases like “unlike some of my opponents,” but we may see some more pointed criticisms. How hot things get will depends on a few things: whether one or two candidates decide to go negative and open the floodgates; how much urgency certain candidates are feeling with less than three weeks until the election; and whether there is a “cross-examination” round where candidates get to ask one of their opponents a direct question.
Look for Williams, Mark-Viverito, and Blake to be the most frequent targets of any negative comments, outright attacks, or those pointed candidate-to-candidate questions.

What might come up exactly?

For Mark-Viverito, it could be questions about her support of a rezoning in her City Council district, her closeness with de Blasio or with Oscar López Rivera, how she’s handled some of her campaign financing, or whether she provided strong enough oversight of issues at NYCHA while she was City Council speaker. As the candidate who has held the most power in government, she has both the most to point to in terms of accomplishments but also a series of vulnerabilities.

For Blake, possibly the outside income he has earned as a consultant or his support for charter schools. For Williams, perhaps that he just ran for lieutenant governor and is now pursuing another higher office or some of his campaign financing, but most likely the ongoing questions around his support for a woman’s right to choose and for marriage equality. There was also a recent report about a campaign staffer who was a teacher and had been fined for sending inappropriate messages to a student.

Espinal could face some questions, or at least barbs, about the East New York rezoning that he negotiated with the de Blasio administration. Ulrich could face questions about Trump, as virtually every Republican running for office over the last few years has, even those who have not supported the president who is deeply unpopular in New York City.

If Konst is particularly critical of her opponents and one or more decide(s) to fire back, she could face questions or comments about what exactly she has accomplished, especially for New York City voters, or what qualifies her for a citywide office.

Amazon is likely to come up several times, particularly with regard to the 2017 letter that some of the public advocate candidates did sign, encouraging the company to consider New York. Those signees, including Mark-Viverito, Williams, and Blake, have criticized the deal and said that while they may have signed a letter of interest, they were not signing off on any deal and expected a better process. That hasn't been a good enough answer for O'Donnell, Kim, Konst, Espinal, and others.

And there could very well be new questions or critiques thrown by one candidate at another. There’s clearly opposition research happening by some campaigns, with a lot at stake in the election.

Even though there will be 10 candidates and there’s potential for a lot of cross-talk, the debate is very likely to stay orderly. The candidates involved are all respectful of rules and Louis always runs a tight ship.

4. The Wild Cards
Konst is certainly known to speak forcefully and critically, and if she’s throwing verbal punches, she may take some control of the conversation by virtue of putting some of her opponents back on their heels. If other candidates have to appeal to the moderator to “have a chance to respond to that,” she may get the kind of debate attention she may need.

O’Donnell can also be particularly biting, though it’s unclear how harsh he wants to get with his competition -- he’s also quite affable.

Rodriguez has had a penchant for saying somewhat controversial things in his time in the Council, including when he was arguing that the City Council was not going far enough as it was voting itself a large salary raise. How bold does he get?

Blake and Mark-Viverito are both exceptionally competitive and may decide that what it takes to win is to try to dominate the debate, including by being particularly sharp with their competitors.

And while Smalls is consistently calm and collected, she may present something of a wild card in that she may impress a lot of people watching, giving herself even more of a chance (she’s raised a good bit of money and is strong at local forums) in what is very clearly a long-shot bid.

5. The Former Public Advocates
There’s a good chance that the candidates will have a lot of harsh words for one former public advocate, Bill de Blasio, and a lot of kind words for another, Tish James.

There have only been four public advocates since the position was created through charter revision commission late last century. The other two are Mark Green and Betsy Gotbaum. Green has endorsed Williams this year, while Gotbaum is the executive director of Citizens Union, a good government group and co-sponsor of the debates.

The candidates may be asked to discuss which of the former public advocates they most admire or would borrow strategies from, or candidates may offer some of those examples themselves.

Essential to the whole night is that the candidates must individually and collectively make the case that the position of public advocate is important, worth keeping, and worth caring about enough for people to vote. Perhaps more important than their stances on any issues is whether the candidates can outline strong strategies for how they’ll engage everyday New Yorkers and respond to the issues that they raise and be an aggressive and effective watchdog over city government.

When the candidates talk about the position, how much fire is in their bellies -- and is the fire about using the office to help people or about using it to move on to the next thing? Maybe both?

6. The Mayoral Pledge
As it has throughout the race, the question of mayoral aspirations is likely to come up. After all, Green and de Blasio both ran for mayor while they were public advocate and James likely would have if the attorney general position hadn’t opened up with Eric Schneiderman’s dishonorable resignation.

Some candidates, like O’Donnell, have pledged to never run for mayor, while Williams and Blake have pledged not to run in 2021 if successful in this special election and then in the fall election that will follow. Mark-Viverito has said she's not ruling anything out.

Ulrich has said he will run for mayor if he’s elected public advocate.

7. Policy Talk
The debate could be quite substantive. The candidates on the stage are all serious people who want to work in government and to accomplish things to help people and the city overall. They’ve been touring the forum circuit where they’ve been asked about all sorts of broad and specific issues, from affordable housing to congestion pricing to policing and more.

The public advocate is able to carve out policy areas to focus on based on the interests of the officeholder, though major issues facing the city also command attention. The candidates have all put forth ideas and policy proposals, discussed legislation they may look to introduce if elected, and changes they believe are needed to major institutions, from schools to the MTA.

Hot button issues like the Amazon deal, NYCHA’s future, congestion pricing and how to fix the subways, and more could all come up. Like in all candidate debates, pay special attention to which candidates actually offer solutions to key problems facing the city and which only talk about what’s gone wrong and how much of a shame it is.

It will be particularly interesting to get candidates on the record about as many key issues as possible, like infill development on NYCHA land or neighborhood rezonings, the mayor’s affordable housing plan, police accountability, school turnaround, the BQX, parking placard abuse, bus lane enforcement, and more. What do the candidates think should be done about climate change? Homeless shelter siting? And so on.

Much of the policy that is discussed will depend on the questions from the moderator and panelists, and they are sure to cover a lot, but candidates can also find ways to work in key points they want to make about where they think the city needs to go.

8. The Non-Debaters
Watch for them on social media during the debate and at local forums between Wednesday and the election on February 26. The public advocate candidates not in the debate include Ben Yee, David Eisenbach, Jared Rich, Tony Herbert, Manny Alicandro, and Helal Sheikh (Latrice Walker will be on the ballot but she has dropped from the race).

Final Notes
The co-sponsors of the debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday are Spectrum News NY1 and Spectrum News Noticias NY1, Politico New York, Citizens Union, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Latino Leadership Institute, The League of Women Voters of the City of New York, NAACP New York State Conference Metropolitan Council, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and East Kings County Alumnae Chapter.

The second debate, likely with a smaller field of candidates, will take place on Wednesday, February 20, again on NY1 and NYC Life.

The citywide election is open to all registered voters on February 26.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that Blake has said he won't run for mayor in 2021 if he is elected public advocate.

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8 Things to Watch in the First Public Advocate Debate Tue, 05 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
10 Candidates Qualify for First TV Debate in Public Advocate Special Election http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8237-11-candidates-qualify-for-first-debate-in-public-advocate-special-election http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8237-11-candidates-qualify-for-first-debate-in-public-advocate-special-election 12 pub advjan

(l-r) Melissa Mark-viverito, Ydanis Rodriguez, Dawn Smalls, Jumaane Williams Rafael Espinal; Danny O'Donnell, Michael Blake, Erich Ulrich, Nomiki Konst, Ron Kim


Update: This article and its headline have been updated to clarify that 10, not 11, candidates officially qualified for the first televised debate of the race. The original version of this article included Assemblymember Latrice Walker, who appeared to have crossed the financial threshold but was ruled not to have by the Campaign Finance Board after its review of her filings.

It’s going to be a crowded stage -- but not as crowded as it might have been.

Ten of the 20 remaining candidates in the special election for New York City Public Advocate have officially qualified for the first of two televised debates in the race, scheduled for February 6. Candidates had till last week, when the latest campaign finance filing was due with the city Campaign Finance Board, to raise and spend at least $56,938. The citywide election is February 26.

The ten candidates are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assemblymember Michael Blake, attorney Dawn Smalls, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, Assemblymember Ron Kim, City Council Member Rafael Espinal, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, City Council Member Eric Ulrich, Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, and activist Nomiki Konst.

campaign finance 19 pub adv

Mark-Viverito leads the pack in funds raised, with $346,000, though about half of that was transferred in from her prior campaign account, and spent $166,000 (which, notably, is just $4,000 short of the financial threshold for the second “leading contenders” debate on February 20). All of the ten candidates are participating in the CFB’s public matching funds program, which is meant to incentivize campaigns to raise money from small-dollar donors, though there are two systems within the program they must choose from.

Candidates can opt in to one of two models -- the old model that matches contributions up to $175 at a 6-to-1 ratio or the new model, which gives 8-to-1 matches for donations up to $250. Both are at play in this special election and others through the 2021 city cycle, after which the new model takes over completely. That model was passed by voters after being recommended by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2018 charter revision commission, and the City Council recently passed legislation to apply it to this year’s public advocate races (the special election and subsequent fall election).

Mark-Viverito is the only one sticking with the old system while the other nine candidates opted in to the new one, which also comes with lower contribution limits overall. When the City Council passed legislation to allow the new system into the special election, Mark-Viverito indicated a belief that the Council members running and others in the body were acting in order to hurt her chances of winning. Some responded with confusion or indignation, pointing to the fact that the new system seeks to reward small-dollar fundraising and remove the influence of larger donors.

To qualify for public funds for the public advocate special election, the candidates have to meet a dual threshold, raising at least $62,500 from a minimum of 500 contributors. Initial numbers indicate that, of the 10 candidates who have raised enough to get into the debate, Rodriguez and Konst are the only two that don’t seem to have met the public funds threshold yet. The first round of public funds will be disbursed on Wednesday. First, the city Board of Elections will meet on Tuesday for a hearing to rule on several challenges to candidates’ ballot petitions and therefore finalize the February 26 ballot -- there is therefore a chance that not all ten candidates who have qualified for the debate will be on stage, as some do have petition challenges against them.

Both the February 6 and 20 debates will be broadcast by Spectrum News NY1, and will be freely accessible on its website and Facebook page. It will also be livestreamed on NYC Life, the city-run media channel. The debate sponsors include Politico New York, Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters, the Latino Leadership Institute, Borough of Manhattan Community College, NAACP New York State Conference Metropolitan Council, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., East Kings County Alumnae Chapter.

The special election is occurring because former Public Advocate Letitia James was elected Attorney General and vacated the seat. The winner is only guaranteed the position through the end of this year, while the fall election will determine who holds it for 2020 and 2021, the next city election cycle.

[READ: Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate]

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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10 Candidates Qualify for First TV Debate in Public Advocate Special Election Mon, 28 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
In First Mailer of Public Advocate Race, Kim Targets Amazon, and Prominent Opponents http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8208-in-first-mailer-of-public-advocate-race-kim-targets-amazon-and-prominent-opponents http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8208-in-first-mailer-of-public-advocate-race-kim-targets-amazon-and-prominent-opponents box kim mail1600

(portion of Ron Kim mailer)


Assemblymember Ron Kim, a candidate for New York City Public Advocate, sent out the first mailed advertisement of his campaign this week, touting his early opposition to the deal between Amazon and New York, and contrasting it with other leading candidates in the race.

The advertisement appears to be the first mailer of the race, a sprint to the February 26 special election to fill now-Attorney General Letitia James’ former seat. Notably, it jabs at four perceived frontrunners, highlighting their signatures on an October 2017 letter signed by most elected officials in New York City to Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, urging him to bring the second Amazon headquarters to New York. Over a year later, the corporate giant and New York City and State officials announced the controversial deal that is now a flashpoint in the public advocate race. Kim, who did not sign the letter, is running on a platform of “people over corporations” and a promise to reinvent the public advocate’s office.

Ron Kim mailerSpecifically, the signatures of fellow public advocate candidates blown up on the mailer are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, State Assembly Member Michael Blake, and City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams -- all Democrats like Kim, who represents parts of Queens. Since signing the letter, which was a broad overture, Mark-Viverito, Blake, and Williams have rejected the specific deal that was reached for an Amazon campus in Queens, which includes roughly $3 billion in tax incentives and grants from the city and state. Rodriguez's position on the Amazon deal is less clear, and his office did not respond to a request for comment.

The mailer reads: “Assembly Member Ron Kim is running for to put Public Advocate for one simple reason: people over corporations. That means an end to corporate giveaways, reforming student debt and busting the mega-monopolies that govern our lives. He knows that the only way to truly help New Yorkers is to once and for all put people over corporations.”

The letter to Bezos is essentially a sales pitch for New York City and cites many resources, like the high number of startups in New York as well as the large population Amazon would have at its disposal.

“After they saw the backlash, [Mark-Viverito, Blake, Rodriguez, Williams] all of a sudden changed their position against Amazon for political expediency,” Kim said by email.

Other prominent elected officials not to sign the letter were Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Queens City Council Member Donovan Richards, as well as two other current public advocate candidates: Rafael Espinal, a City Council member from Brooklyn, and Danny O'Donnell, an Assembly member from Manhattan.

Kim has spoken out against the Amazon deal since before it was announced. In comments to Queens Chronicle about two weeks before Amazon and New York announced the deal, he rejected a possible agreement to bring the online giant to the city. He co-wrote two op-eds heavily critical of Amazon and the deal, first in the New York Times with 2018 New York Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout, and another two weeks later in the New York Daily News with then-State Senator-elect Jessica Ramos.

Shortly after details of the deal were released, Assemblymember Kim announced legislation to block the incentives offered to Amazon and use the money to buy and cancel student debt. As public advocate, he would introduce similar legislation in the City Council.

Opposition to the Amazon deal fits Kim’s thematic messaging for his campaign, he’ll even be on the self-created “People Over Corporations” ballot line on Feb. 26, which includes that push to cancel student debt and promoting local small businesses. The mailer describes the deal as a corporate giveaway and calls for investment in the MTA, schools, and affordable housing instead of the billions of incentives in the Amazon deal.

The role of public advocate is intentionally flexible in the New York City Charter, but the three duties most often assumed by public advocates are introducing legislation in the City Council, bringing issues to the front of public discourse, and serving as a watchdog of city agencies. It appears there is little the next public advocate can do about the Amazon deal, but the most likely influence would be through applying public pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio to cancel or make significant changes to the deal.

“As the ombudsman for the people of New York City, the Public Advocate has a strong bully pulpit which I will use to convince (both publicly and privately) my colleagues in government to reject the Amazon HQ2 deal,” said Kim.

The public advocate election to be held next month will have a large field of candidates. Twenty-three hopefuls submitted the required 3,750 signatures to the New York City Board of Elections by the Monday deadline. Also running are Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, Assemblymembers Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan and Latrice Walker of Brooklyn, former Obama and Clinton administration attorney Dawn Smalls, and journalist and activist Nomiki Konst, among many others.

With competitors trying to set themselves apart, Kim clearly sees Amazon opposition as a winning part of the strategy. Asked about how many mailers his campaign sent, where they were sent, and how much was spent on them, he only said, “I sent the mailer to a broad universe of likely voters across New York City.”

Two names noticeably did not appear on the mailer: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, the leaders of negotiations with Amazon executives who held a joint celebratory November press conference to announce the deal. De Blasio and Cuomo were immediately and loudly criticized for the deal by a number of elected officials and activists, though they also got some praise and the only public poll on it shows a mixed bag, but with more support than not. The criticism stemmed from the lack of transparency and oversight involved in the process, the incentives involved, Amazon’s business practices, and the potential impact on local housing prices and infrastructure.

“Both were wrong to offer $3 billion in taxpayer handouts to Amazon instead of funding MTA reconstruction, affordable housing development, programs to fight climate change or a whole host of other priorities,” said Kim, when asked about omitting de Blasio and Cuomo from the mailer. “But neither the Governor nor the Mayor are running for Public Advocate.”

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by Truman Stephens, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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In First Mailer of Public Advocate Race, Kim Targets Amazon, and Prominent Opponents Wed, 16 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8175-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-public-advocate-special-election http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8175-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-public-advocate-special-election ballot tish

Tish James voting (photo via Gotham Gazette)


Updated as of January 29.

In February, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to cast a ballot for a new public advocate in the first-ever special election for a citywide office. The current vacancy was created when the most recent officeholder, Letitia James, was officially sworn in as the state’s attorney general, a position she won in the November general election.

The public advocate is the people’s representative, a watchdog and ombudsperson, with a post that has little direct influence over city policy but a strong bully pulpit from which proposals can be made, grievances can be amplified, and the mayor and the rest of local government can be held to account. The office is charged with hearing complaints from New Yorkers about city services and can investigate the work of city agencies though with limited ability to enforce reforms. The office holder can also introduce legislation in the City Council but cannot cast a vote.

The special election to fill one of just three popularly-elected citywide positions has a crowded field and a short timeline. Here’s what you need to know.

When is the election?
Mayor Bill de Blasio officially proclaimed on January 2 that the election would be held on Tuesday, February 26.

Who is running?
There are 23 candidates who filed petition signatures with the New York City Board of Elections to get on the ballot, but not all of them will qualify. Once the mayor signed the city proclamation, the many candidates had 12 days to collect the 3,750 petition signatures they needed to get on the ballot. Signatures can come from any registered voter in the city, and many candidates pursued far more than the minimum required in order to protect themselves from challenges of invalid signatures.

Special elections in New York are nonpartisan -- no candidate can run on an existing party line like that of the Democratic or Republican Party -- and each candidate has created their own ballot line that is not supposed to resemble another political party’s name. Another quirk in the system is that ballot position is decided by the order in which petition signatures are submitted, which made the mad scramble to get on the ballot that much more frantic.  

The number of candidates, even in a narrowed field, could test the limits of modern ballot design since half a dozen sitting and former New York City Council members, several State Assembly members, and a number of activists and others outside of government are running. They include former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who submitted her petition signatures first and will likely be at the top of the ballot; sitting City Council Members Jumaane Williams, Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Eric Ulrich, the lone Republican office-holder in the race; Assemblymembers Michael Blake, Latrice Walker, Ron Kim, and Daniel O’Donnell; activist and journalist Nomiki Konst; Columbia University professor David Eisenbach, who ran against James in the 2017 Democratic primary for public advocate; attorney Dawn Smalls; and entrepreneur Benjamin Yee, among others.

The actual field will become much clearer once petition challenges have been ruled on by the Board of Elections on January 29 -- eight candidates are being challenged -- whereby candidates can have their ballot access denied due to faulty petitions. Candidates often file suit to get other candidates kicked off on technicalities -- something as small as a missing cover sheet on a petition can ensure that a candidate does not qualify.

How much campaign cash can they raise and spend?
Along with his announcement of the date of the special election, the mayor also signed into law a bill sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos that immediately puts into effect new campaign finance regulations that were approved by voters through a ballot referendum in November.

The new rules allow candidates to choose between two tiers of participation in the city’s public matching funds program, administered by the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which monitors campaign fundraising and spending. The program currently gives participating candidates a 6-to-1 match for the first $175 of every campaign contribution. Those who choose to abide by these old rules would be limited to a maximum campaign donation of $2,550, and can receive a maximum of $2.5 million in public funds.

The second, new tier allows candidates to opt for a $1,000 contribution limit and receive an 8-to-1 match in public funds for the first $250 of each contribution, allowing them to receive up to $3.4 million in public funds. To receive public funds, a candidate would have to meet the dual threshold of raising a total of $62,500 from at least 500 individual contributors.

Those that choose to participate in the public funds program will have to abide by a $4.5 million spending limit, though any candidate is unlikely to reach that astronomical number in just seven weeks. They will also have to complete a mandatory campaign finance training at the CFB.

The first campaign finance disclosure deadline passed on January 15, with several candidates showing strong fundraising numbers. The following disclosure deadline is January 25, and there are others into February.

Will the candidates debate?
Many of the candidates have already appeared and are regularly appearing at a series of public forums and debates organized by advocacy groups, political clubs, and others to lay out their platforms and positions on specific policies. But there will also be two official debates organized by the CFB. The first debate will be held February 6 and the second one is scheduled for February 20. Both will be broadcast by Spectrum News NY1, and livestreamed on NY1's website and Facebook page. 

To qualify for the first debate, candidates will have to raise and spend at least $56,938 by January 21, the campaign finance disclosure deadline just prior to the debate. The second debate, for “leading contenders” will have greater thresholds -- candidates will have to raise and spend $170,813 by February 11, and must be endorsed by a state, local or federal elected official representing New York City, or by a membership organization with 250 members living in the city. The sponsors of the debates include Politico New York, Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters, the Latino Leadership Institute, Borough of Manhattan Community College, NAACP New York State Conference Metropolitan Council, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., East Kings County Alumnae Chapter.

Ten candidates qualified for the first debate.

Unlike in the past, the debates will also be simulcast by the city-run NYC Life, making them freely and publicly accessible, as mandated by a law passed last year.

What will the election cost?
The New York City Board of Elections estimates that the special election will set the city back at least $15 million, a price that is nearly five times the actual annual budget of the public advocate’s office.

But, unlike a regular citywide election, there will be no costly runoff if a candidate does not meet a certain threshold. The candidate with the most votes wins, even if a large field means the winner takes a small percentage of the vote.

Who can vote and who will vote?
Every registered voter in the city can vote in the special election but turnout is likely to be low, though it is hard to predict since the city has never held a citywide special election before. New voter registration applications sent by mail must be postmarked no later than February 1 but the BOE will accept in-person applications till 5 pm on February 16. 

In City Council special elections, turnout tends to be severely depressed owing to several factors -- a lack of awareness of the election, an election date outside of the expected September-November window, voter apathy.

In the 2017 election, when James was reelected to a second term, a total of 1.1 million New Yorkers voted for public advocate, only about 22 percent of the total registered voters in the city at that time.

Who will win?
Who knows. But, we do know that the winner of the special election will, if he or she wants to keep the office, have to run for reelection in the fall. By city law, there will be a typical set of primary and general elections in September and November to decide the public advocate for the rest of the current four-year term, which runs through the end of 2021. The winner of the special election will only be guaranteed the office through the end of this year.

Democratic and/or Republican primaries will be held as needed in September before a November general election. There could also be a run-off if there is a crowded primary or general election field and no candidate earns 40 percent of the vote initially. In 2013, James won the Democratic nomination in a primary run-off before easily winning the general election.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: This article has been updated to include the voter registration deadlines for the special election and other information.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate Thu, 03 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Declared and Exploring Candidates for New York City Public Advocate http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8136-declared-or-exploring-candidates-for-new-york-city-public-advocate http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8136-declared-or-exploring-candidates-for-new-york-city-public-advocate 10 candidates

(l-r) Tish James, Ydanis Rodriguez, Melissa Mark-viverito, Jumaane Williams, Latrice Walker
Rafael Espinal, Danny O'Donnell, Michael Blake, Erich Ulrich, Ron Kim


There are roughly two dozen candidates who have officially declared or indicated they are exploring a run in the February special election for New York City Public Advocate, which will take place Tuesday, February 26.

Attorney General-elect Letitia James officially vacates the office of New York City Public Advocate on January 1, setting off the next steps of the process, whereby Mayor Bill de Blasio will officially call what will be the first citywide special election since the current city governmental structure was designed in 1989.

Candidates have already been hitting the forum and debate circuit, with groups and voters across the city eager to hear from those seeking to become of just three popularly-elected citywide officials. The Public Advocate is significantly less powerful than the Mayor or the Comptroller, but has a citywide perch, important responsibilities as a watchdog and ombudsperson, the power to introduce legislation and file litigation, and a bully pulpit. People who have held the position in its relatively short history have been elected mayor (Bill de Blasio) or almost so (Mark Green), and now attorney general.

It won’t be completely clear who is fully running to become the next Public Advocate until candidates collect signatures to get on the ballot and file their fundraising numbers with the Campaign Finance Board. Special elections in the city are “nonpartisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and candidates cannot run on the major party ballot lines. Each candidate will create their own party label to run on, and they’ll need to collect 3,750 valid signatures from registered voters of any party (or none) to make the ballot.

Declared and exploring candidates include several current and former elected officials and a variety of other individuals looking to pull off a surprise win. With the prospect of well more than ten candidates on the ballot and low voter turnout virtually a given, the winner of the special election could be anyone who finds the right formula for the necessary thousands of voters.

The winner of the special election will quickly have to win a regular election, though, since city law dictates that for such a vacancy, there is not only a special election but then a regular election, with party primaries if needed, the following fall. So, there will be an election for Public Advocate in November, with September party primaries if necessary, in the fall of 2019.

Below is a running list of candidates, either declared or exploring, for the Public Advocate special election (in alphabetical order):

-Manny Alicandro is an attorney who recently sought the Republican nomination for attorney general. @Manny_Alicandro

-Assemblymember Michael Blake represents part of the Bronx and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. @MrMikeBlake

-Theo Chino is a bitcoin entrepreneur and county committee member. @theochino

-Daniel Christmann is a radio host. @EcallerTh

-David Eisenbach is a professor of history at Columbia University, who unsuccessfully challenged Tish James in the 2017 Democratic primary for Public Advocate. @Eisenbach4NY

-City Council Member Rafael Espinal represents part of Brooklyn. @RLEspinal

-Peter Gleason is an attorney and former police officer and firefighter, who once represented the infamous “Soccer Mom Madam.” @PeterGleasonEsq

-Gwen Goodwin is a community activist and past candidate for City Council.

-Tony Herbert is a community activist who was a candidate for Public Advocate in 2017. @herbert4nyc

-Ifeoma Ike is an attorney and co-founder of consultancy Think Rubix, LLC. @IfyWorks

-Walter Iwachiw is a perennial Republican candidate for various offices, such as mayor, state Assembly, CUNY Student Senator, and even U.S. president.

-Assemblymember Ron Kim represents parts of Queens. @rontkim

-Nomiki Konst is a journalist, activist, and member of the Democratic National Committee. @NomikiKonst

-Abbey Laurel-Smith @The46thPOTUS_

-Danniel Maio is a former candidate for state Assembly.

-Melissa Mark-Viverito is former Speaker of the City Council who helped lead the Latino Victory Fund after being term-limited out of office at the end of 2017. @MMViverito

-Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell represents part of Manhattan. @DannyforNYC

-Jared Rich is an attorney from Brooklyn. @JaredRichNYC

-City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez represents part of Manhattan. @ydanis

-Ralph Schweizer is a Bronx activist. @RealRalphNYC

-Diane Signorile is a real estate broker from Staten Island. @kittydat2

-Curtis Sliwa is a radio host. @CurtisSliwa

-Nancy Sliwa is an attorney and real estate broker who ran for attorney general this year on the Reform Party line. @SLIWA4NYAG

-Dawn Smalls is an attorney who previously worked in the Obama and Clinton administrations. @DawnSmalls2

-John Tabacco is the New York State Reform Party secretary. @HTBExperts

-City Council Member Eric Ulrich represents part of Queens. @eric_ulrich

-Assemblymember Latrice Walker represents part of Brooklyn. @WalkerForNYC

-City Council Member Jumaane Williams represents part of Brooklyn. @JumaaneWilliams

-Ben Yee is a technology entrepreneur, member of the Democratic state committee, and secretary for the Manhattan Democratic Party. @yben

-Mike Zumbluskas is the former chair of the Manhattan Independence Party. @MikeZumbluskas

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Declared and Exploring Candidates for New York City Public Advocate Tue, 11 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus Rafael Espinal

Council Member Rafael Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)


Letitia James’ win in the race to become the next New York Attorney General means there will be a special election early in 2019 to name New York City’s next Public Advocate. The candidates for what will be a roughly three-month race were just beginning to become clear when news broke of planned City Council legislation calling for the position of public advocate to be abolished, as reported by Politico.

Though the post of public advocate has had critics since it was created during a massive 1989 New York City Charter revision process, the Council bill faces an uphill path to passage, and the race to replace James as one of just three popularly-elected citywide officials will capture much of the city’s political attention over the coming weeks.

The somewhat undefined and underfunded role of public advocate is largely shaped by the person who fills it. It is broadly expected that the public advocate will do as the name suggests and fight for public interests, serving as a watchdog over the rest of city government. It is also seen as a stepping stone post -- Bill de Blasio launched his successful 2013 campaign for mayor from the perch.

With James expected to win her race for attorney general since she launched her campaign several months ago, a long list of potential public advocate candidates formed. Now that Election Day is in the past, some are making it official, while others are still officially in the considering phase.

Pushing the decision-making is that organizations have begun to host candidate forums, including the first on Monday night, held in Manhattan by several progressive advocacy groups and Democratic clubs. Another will follow on Wednesday night, hosted by government reform group Citizens Union and AARP-NY. Candidates must also consider fundraising and pursuing endorsements from groups, labor unions, and high-profile individuals.

Even before James won her race, a handful of candidates declared their candidacies: City Council Member Jumaane Williams, state Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell and Michael Blake, activist and journalist Nomiki Konst, and Columbia history professor David Eisenbach, who ran in the 2017 public advocate Democratic primary against James.

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is said to be nearing the launch of a campaign, while there have been grumblings that her predecessor in that role, Christine Quinn, may also give the race a look. There has also been some question about whether Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would consider it, though he has expressed his intention to run for mayor in 2021. Both Quinn and Adams appear unlikely candidates at this point.

Meanwhile, along with Williams, who just lost a bid to become the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, current City Council Members either starting or flirting with a run for public advocate include Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Eric Ulrich, the lone Republican in the mix at this point. (Meanwhile, five of their colleagues - Kalman Yeger, Robert Holden, Ruben Diaz Sr., Mark Gjonaj, and Rtichie Torres -- announced on Monday that they are backing a new bill to eliminate the position.)

Also in the running for public advocate are Dawn Smalls, a Manhattan attorney with a background in federal government, open government advocate and Democratic Party activist Ben Yee, and systems engineer Theo Chino. Other names could easily emerge in the coming days and weeks.

Once James is officially sworn in as attorney general on January 1, Mayor de Blasio will have just a few days to call a special election, likely to take place in late February. That election will be “non-partisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and each candidate must create their own ballot line through petitioning to accrue signatures from voters.

Once the special election is decided, the winner will only hold the office until the end of 2019. In the fall, there will be a “regular” election, with party primaries (as necessary) and a general election. The winner of that election will serve out the rest of James’ term until the end of 2021. He or she would be eligible to run for reelection that fall and able to serve two full terms on top of the partial term, though there is of course talk that whoever holds the seat at the start of 2020 may very well run for mayor in 2021, when de Blasio is term-limited out of office.

The forum on Wednesday will be held at New York Law School starting at 6:30 p.m., participating candidates including Blake, Williams, Espinal, Ulrich, O'Donnell, Konst, and Smalls.

[Updated: Listen to the full Wednesday forum here]

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

This story has been updated to indicate that City Council Member Robert Cornegy told Gotham Gazette he is not running for public advocate and that he is pursuing a run for Brooklyn borough president in 2021.

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Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus Mon, 12 Nov 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Potentially Crowded Public Advocate Special Election Could Feature Two Former Council Speakers http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers Quinn Mark-Viverito

Christine Quinn, center, & Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo: City Council on flickr)


The September primary election is just over one week away and if New York City Public Advocate Letitia James wins the Democratic nomination for attorney general over her three primary opponents, she will be a significant favorite to win the position in November owing in large part to the state’s Democrat-heavy electorate. No Republican has won statewide since Governor George Pataki captured a third term in 2002; it’s been far longer for a Republican attorney general.

James winning the nomination will likely kick-off, in earnest, a mad scramble by several sitting and former elected officials who may seek to replace her through the at-that-point nearly certain special election for her citywide seat. Among the stronger potential contenders discussed in Democratic circles are two former speakers of the New York City Council -- Melissa Mark-Viverito, who led the body until last year, and Christine Quinn, her predecessor.

[Read: James Victory in Attorney General Race Would Trigger Citywide Special Election]

While they come from different wings of the New York Democratic Party, both Mark-Viverito and Quinn are firebrand politicians in their own right, and both made history in their respective ascensions to the speakership.

Quinn, a Democrat who represented parts of the lower west side of Manhattan, became the first openly gay and first female speaker in 2006, presiding over the 51-member legislative body for two four-year terms. For the last three years, since being term-limited out of office and losing in the 2013 mayoral primary, she has served as president and CEO of Women in Need (WIN), a nonprofit that provides services to homeless women and children. Some Democrats and others have criticized Quinn for her close working relationship with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, including the effort to extend term limits, which allowed Bloomberg, Quinn, and others to seek a third term in 2009 despite public disapproval. She is currently a close ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appointed her vice chair of the New York State Democratic Committee.

Mark-Viverito, a Puerto Rican native who represented a district that includes East Harlem and part of the south Bronx, became the Council’s first Latina speaker in 2014, pushing a broad agenda of criminal justice reform, immigrant protection, police accountability and affordable housing. In January, she became a senior adviser at the Latino Victory Fund PAC, a group that supports Latino candidates for elected office. As speaker, Mark-Viverito was at times criticized for her close relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow progressive Democrat, and she has been an outspoken critic of the governor, endorsing his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon. Mark-Viverito is one of a relatively small group of prominent Democrats that is backing Nixon for governor and James for attorney general.

After a New York Law School panel earlier this month, Quinn did not deny having an eye on the office of public advocate. “We have to get Tish James elected and that’s what I’m focused on and also let’s not forget the Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, we have to get reelected,” she told Gotham Gazette, when asked if she had considered running for public advocate in the event of James’ ascension to attorney general. “Right now, I am focused, most importantly, on running WIN and helping the homeless families that we serve...and then in my spare time, so to speak, among other things, I’m helping candidates and friends run for office. So that’s what this summer and fall is about.”

Pressed further, she simply repeated the statement. “That’s what this summer and fall is about.”

Mark-Viverito is slightly less circumspect about her own political future. “I’ve been consistent in saying that I’m really proud of the record that I have accomplished and the issues that I’ve championed and what we’ve been able to get done in the city of New York,” she told Gotham Gazette in a recent phone interview. “I’m not gonna close the door on looking at possibilities in the future if other positions or other opportunities became available...So if there is an opportunity that presents itself, I will definitely be taking a look at that. And I feel strongly that Tish will win so we’ll have that conversation later.”

She emphasized that she brings a strong perspective to policy-making as a Latina representing a low-income community. “I think that’s something that we consistently need to have in positions of authority in the city,” Mark-Viverito said. “And I believe my record speaks for itself and I look forward to being able to continue to serve this wonderful city.”

The special election, if there is one, would take place in March, assuming James is sworn in January 1 and vacates her current seat. Special elections for public advocate are nonpartisan, and each candidate would have to run on their own unique political party ballot line. The winner would then have to run for the seat again in a primary and general election later in 2019, if that person wants to keep the position.

There are several others who have either been floated as candidates or have signalled an interest in becoming the city’s ombudsperson, a post also considered a strong launching pad for a mayoral bid as de Blasio illustrated. They include sitting City Council Members Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, Ritchie Torres, and Joe Borelli, the only Republican among them. All of them but Borelli will be term-limited out of office in 2021. State Assemblymember Michael Blake is another potential candidate, as are Republican attorney J.C. Polanco and Columbia professor David Eisenbach, who both challenged James when she was up for reelection last year -- Eisenbach in the primary and Polanco in the general. Eisenbach has already officially filed papers with the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

“I think the position obviously has a lot of potential,” said a Democratic consultant who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It has different potential than being the City Council speaker where you’re not just responsible for yourself, you’re responsible for 50 other members, hundreds of staff, dozens of appointments here or there. It’s a different set of responsibilities and in the hands of someone who understands the levers of government, who understands the bully pulpit and is sort of willing to take bold steps, it can be a very strong position.”

The public advocate can act as more than just a “counterweight to the mayor,” the consultant said. “That person also can establish themselves as someone who is also driving the agenda for New York, and that’s something we haven’t really seen since Mark Green,” the person added, referring to the city’s first-ever public advocate, who served from 1994 to 2001.

Espinal, a Brooklyn representative, said in an email, “I’m seriously considering it, and whether to launch a campaign will come down to the positive energy and support from New Yorkers.”

A spokesperson for Rodriguez, whose district covers neighborhoods in upper Manhattan and a small section of the Bronx, said, “[Council Member Rodriguez] is committed to supporting Public Advocate James in her run for attorney general as she is the most qualified in the race. Should there be a special election for public advocate, he would consider running for that seat.”

Torres, in a statement through a spokesperson, said, “I am still thinking about it and where I would be most effective. I’m debating which position would allow me to be a better advocate for the city.” The Bronx Council member is also said to be looking at a run for Congress or Bronx borough president.

Borelli also said he was considering a run for public advocate, though he conceded that it would be tough to retain. “It’s possible to win a special, but it will be difficult for a Republican to win the following November,” he said in a text message.

When asked about Quinn and Mark-Viverito both running, he said, “Each would be formidable.”

Shortly before a primary debate among the four Democratic attorney general candidates on Tuesday, Assembly Member Blake told Gotham Gazette he was watching closely in case James’ seat becomes vacant. “She’s gotta win first, but it would be irresponsible not to be looking at it,” he said about considering a run. “First and foremost, this is brand new terrain for all of us. The possibility for a citywide special election is unique to say the least...Out of respect for everybody in the field, this is a moot point unless [James] is the attorney general, and we’re gonna be respectful of that.”

He added, “As I tell my team often, proper preparation prevents poor performance. So you’re just ready, and if that opportunity presents itself, we have some serious decisions to make.”

Blake, who is a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, was the campaign manager for 2013 public advocate candidate Reshma Saujani, giving him some recent experience with a citywide race. He was then elected to the Assembly in 2014.

No current elected official would have to give up their seat to run in the special election, but, if victorious, would then have to vacate their position to become public advocate.

As Borelli alluded to, one effect of numerous Democrats entering the fray is that they could split the vote in what will likely be a low-turnout special election, offering up an opportunity for a Republican to claim victory.

Polanco, the attorney and former public advocate candidate, recognizes that opening. Having run for the seat just last year, he has certain advantages. “Whoever is gonna come from our side, there has to be just one candidate,” Polanco said in a phone interview. “We’re small enough as it is. Even in a non-partisan race, you’re gonna need organizational support. So the organizations have to line up behind one candidate from the beginning in order for us to have a shot.”

Polanco noted that the nonpartisan aspect of the election is “always good for democracy, always good for participation,” since voters won’t necessarily make choices along party lines. But he also echoed the risk for any sitting Republican elected official who might run, as Borelli noted. “Do you give up your Council seat for that? I don’t know whether that’s a good gamble or not, especially if you have three years left on your Council seat,” Polanco said.

Polanco also weighed in on the potential contest between two former Council speakers, saying Quinn would be the “ultimate” candidate. “She’s the most qualified of the candidates on that side running,” he said. “But I think the Democratic Party of today is more along the lines of Melissa Mark-Viverito. The Ocasio-Cortezes of the world, the democratic socialists, are getting momentum. She represents that faction. We can’t kid ourselves.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Potentially Crowded Public Advocate Special Election Could Feature Two Former Council Speakers Mon, 03 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000