Wide-open special election for public advocate set for February; two Queens pols among 20+ hopefuls

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More than two dozen candidates have either declared or are exploring a run for the Office of Public Advocate in the upcoming citywide special election next month.

Attorney General-elect Letitia James stepped down as public advocate on Jan. 1 upon her inauguration to her new office. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Saturday announced the special election will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

“This date will help maximize voter turnout, and my administration will work around the clock to make sure every New Yorker is encouraged to exercise their right to vote,” said de Blasio.

The special election will be nonpartisan followed by a partisan primary for another general election for the office in November. Each candidate must secure their own ballot lines by petition; parties may endorse a candidate, but they may not offer nominees. 

The public advocate is the first in line to succeed the mayor and is the second highest ranking elected office in the city, according to advocate.nyc.gov. The office serves as a direct link between New Yorkers and their government, acts as a “watchdog” over city agencies, and investigates complaints about city services.  The public advocate is a non-voting member of the New York City Council with the right to introduce and co-sponsor legislation.

While the office is vacant, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will oversee operations at the Public Advocate’s office.

Among the list of public advocate candidates, there are two Queens lawmakers who are vying for the seat: Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim from Flushing and Republican City Councilman Eric Ulrich of Ozone Park, both of whom announced their candidacies in December.

Kim’s campaign, People over Corporations, vows to transform the Office of Public Advocate.

The state assemblyman, who represents the 40th district, has been an outspoken advocate against eliminating student debt in New York State and taxpayer subsidies to large corporations, such as Amazon’s $1.7 billion in grants and tax breaks to build its second headquarters in Long Island City.

At fundraisers last week held by Chinese and Korean American supporters, Kim raised a total of $65,430 that includes matchable funds. More than 50 donors contributed $14, 850.00, which resulted in $50, 060 of matchable funds.

“I’m honored and thrilled to receive such tremendous support from the Asian American communities all across our city, state, and country,” said Kim. “During my three terms in the Assembly, I stood up for all groups, especially immigrant and Asian Americans, whenever they were excluded from critical policy decisions or when their needs were neglected.”

As a public advocate, Ulrich, the only Republican in the field who represents the 32nd District, wants to cut property taxes, create more jobs and provide quality education to all children, according to his campaign letter.

Other candidates who are either declared or exploring a run for office include city council members, advocates, state assembly members, and others in the list below:

  • State Assemblyman Michael Blake – who represents parts of the Bronx
  • City Councilmembers Rafael Espinal and Jumaane Williams – who represent parts of Brooklyn
  • City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez – who represents parts of Manhattan
  • Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell – who represents parts of Manhattan
  • Assemblymember Latrice Walker – who represents parts of Brooklyn
  • Melissa Mark-Viverito – former speaker of the City Council

Non-lawmakers include:

  • Nomiki Kurst – Journalist
  • David Eisenbach – Columbia University Professor
  • Dawn Smalls – A lawyer who previously worked in the Obama and Clinton administrations
  • Theo B. Chino –  Entrepreneur, systems engineer
  • Ifeoma Ike – Political activist
  • Gwen Goodwin – Community activist and past city council candidate
  • Tony Herbert – Community activist  and past candidate for public advocate in 2017
  • Benjamin Yee – Business owner, member of the Democratic state committee, and secretary for the Manhattan Democratic Party
  • Mike Zumbluskas –  Former Chairman of the Manhattan Independence Party
  • Walter Iwachiw – Republican candidate for various offices such as mayor, state Assembly, CUNY Student Senator.

The winner of the Feb. 26 special election is only guaranteed to serve as public advocate for the remainder of the calendar year. New Yorkers will vote in November for a public advocate to serve the remainder of James’ term, which expires in 2021.

If you’re not registered to vote, visit the New York City Board of Elections website and sign up.

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