In the September 10th Democratic primary for New York City Public Advocate, none of the five candidates received 40 percent or more of the vote. For that reason, on Tuesday, October 1, there was a runoff election for the position, which has a total budget of only $2.1 million. The cost of the runoff election? Thirteen million dollars.
The winner, Letitia James, is currently a NYC Council member. In the past, James was a public defender with the Legal Aid Society, an assistant New York State Attorney General, and the chief of staff in the New York State Assembly. James was heavily supported by labor unions, women’ groups and Muslim organizations.
James’s opponent, Daniel Squadron, is a Yale graduate, a NY state senator and a former aide to New York Senator Chuck Schumer. Squadron enjoyed Schumer’s endorsement, as well as that of two former NYC Public Advocates, Mark Green and Betsy Gotbaum. Squadron also won the endorsements of the major NYC newspapers.
Other than the fact that Squadron is a white male and James is a black female, there is not much difference between the two candidates, at least politically. Both are liberal Democrats. And in fact, the position is one well-suited to liberal Democrats. The City’s Public Advocate is expected to be the government voice for consumers.
James is not only a member of, and runs on the ticket of, the Democratic Party. She has also long been a member of a community organizing party known as the Working Families Party, which is made up of civil rights leaders, community advocates and tenant organizers.
The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will move on to the general election on November 5th as the Democratic Party nominee. However, given that there is no Republican candidate in the race, James is sure to become the next Public Advocate.
Although the position is not a well-known one, as far as the NYC Charter, it comes in as most important after the mayor. And the Democratic contender for mayor this year, Bill de Blasio, is the current NYC Public Advocate.
Given that the runoff election cost the City of New York nearly seven times the entire budget of the office of Public Advocate, maybe the first thing James should do is abolish the forty percent threshold which mandates a runoff – no matter how small the office.