One of the most wide-open races in New York City history will be decided on Feb. 26, as voters head to the polls for the special election to choose the next public advocate.
Seventeen candidates qualified for the ballot in the nonpartisan contest to fill the seat vacated by State Attorney General Letitia James, who resigned on Dec. 31, 2018. Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the Feb. 26 special election, which will determine who will occupy the public advocate’s office for the rest of 2019; another election will be held in November to determine who will serve out the remainder of James’ public advocate term, which expires in 2021.
Because it’s a nonpartisan race, none of the political parties can nominate a candidate, though they may choose to endorse someone. Each of the 17 candidates had to secure their own petitions and ballot lines with party-neutral names like “For the People” or “Equality for All” or “Community Strong.” Many of these candidates’ campaigns have received matching funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Bureau.
The public advocate serves as the city’s ombudsman, an official designated to be a link between city government and the people it represents. The public advocate is recognized as a non-voting member of the City Council, but has the authority to create and introduce legislation.
Moreover, the public advocate is the first in the line of mayoral succession, meaning that the public advocate would become mayor should Bill de Blasio vacate the office.
The Campaign Finance Bureau’s website has the biographies and short videos of each candidate on the ballot in the Feb. 26 special election. Here’s the list of the candidates in order of their ballot position, with links to their CFB pages embedded in their names (their ballot names are in parentheses):
- Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (Fix the MTA)
- Assemblyman Michael Blake (For the People)
- Attorney Dawn Smalls (No More Delays)
- City Councilman Eric Ulrich (Common Sense)
- City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (Unite Immigrants)
- Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell (Equality for All)
- City Councilman Rafael Espinal (Livable City)
- Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (Power Forward)
- City Councilman Jumaane Williams (It’s Time Let’s Go)
- Assemblyman Ron Kim (No Amazon)
- Coding and civics teacher Benjamin Yee (Community Strong)
- Attorney Manny Alicandro (Better Leaders)
- Investigative journalist Nomiki Konst (Pay Folks More)
- History professor and author David Eisenbach (Stop REBNY)
- Attorney Jared Rich (Jared Rich for NYC)
- Community consultant Anthony Tony Herbert (Residents First)
- Helal A. Sheikh (Friends of Helal) (editor’s note: This candidate did not provide information or a video to the CFB)
The public advocate special election is open to all registered voters in New York City. Polls are open on Feb. 26 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; the winner of the contest will be sworn in as public advocate upon certification of the results.
For more information on voting, call 212-VOTE-NYC or visit vote.nyc.ny.us.