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Gotbaum, Seigel face off in public advocate race

By Alexander Dworkowitz

William Thompson defeated Herbert Berman in the Democratic primary for comptroller last Tuesday, earning 54 percent of the vote, based on an unofficial Board of Elections count.

In the race for public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum will face Norman Siegel in a runoff on the Democratic line Nov. 11, according to the Board of Elections’ unofficial results.

Gotbaum easily won the most votes, but did not receive 40 percent of the total necessary to avoid a runoff, while Siegel narrowly beat out Stephen DiBrienza, the second runner-up, by close to 3,000 votes.

Thompson’s victory in the primary effectively gives him the office of comptroller, since the Republican Party will not put forth a challenger in November’s general election.

Created less than a decade ago to replace the position of city council president, the public advocate’s role is still largely unclear. The advocate presides over city council meetings and can introduce legislation but only votes in the case of a tie.

Mark Green, the current public advocate who will face Bronx Borough President Ferdinand Ferrer in a runoff for the Democratic nomination for mayor, defined the job as standing in opposition to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But the relationship between the next public advocate and the next mayor could well be less contentious.

The role of the comptroller is better defined. The comptroller oversees the city’s $90 billion in pension funds, settles claims against the city, and has the power to audit city agencies.

Thompson’s win concluded a fractious race. Both candidates used attack ads in the final stages of the election. Berman, a city council member from Brooklyn, accused Thompson of operating as a Wall Street bond underwriter without a license. Former Board of Education President Thompson attacked Berman for accepting $50,000 from Fred Wilpon, co-owner of the New York Mets, in exchange for what Berman contended was a vote to approve the construction of KeySpan Park, the home of the Mets’ newest minor team.

Thompson’s campaign focused on increasing school funding, while Berman’s campaign focused on fiscal responsibility.

Gotbaum, who received 24 percent of the vote, and Siegel, who received close to 17 percent of the vote, outlasted five other Democrats seeking to become public advocate.

The other candidates were state Assemblyman Scott Stringer (D-Brooklyn); DiBrienza, a Brooklyn councilman; Willie Colon, the salsa performer; Councilwoman Kathryn E. Freed (D-Manhattan) and Sheila S. Flaxman, an audiologist.

The Board of Elections results were unofficial because there were still a few thousand ballots from the Bronx left uncounted as of presstime Tuesday night.

Reach Reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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