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Assemblyman Ron Kim (l.) and City Councilman Eric Ulrich are the two candidates from Queens running for public advocate this February.

Hoping to bring some clarity to the wide open special election for public advocate, several Queens Democratic clubs will host an open forum in Jackson Heights, Monday, Jan 28 and more than half of the 23 candidates for the office have accepted invitations.

Of the two candidates from Queens, only Assemblyman Ron Kim has confirmed his attendance at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center, a campaign spokesman for City Councilman Eric Ulrich saying his candidate was not invited to the forum which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at 37-06 77th Street.

“Many are trying to turn this special, non-partisan, election into a partisan choice, but they can’t,” an Ulrich campaign spokesman said.”It’s precisely because of this narrow-minded thinking that Councilman Ulrich is running for Public Advocate, which is an independent check on the Mayor and his administration as the City Charter requires. You can’t be independent of the mayor if you are politically aligned with him or creating partisan loyalty tests.”

Neither Kim or Ulrich appear to have qualified for matching funds under the city’s new public financing option, however, both campaigns are adamant that Ulrich and Kim have indeed qualified for matching funds which will be on publicly available data after the next filing with the city’s Campaign Finance Board early next week.

“Ron Kim is officially on the ballot for the February 26th Special Election and continues to gain momentum in endorsements and fundraising and has raised enough funds from New York City donors to qualify for the matching funds program,” a Kim spokesman said. “Assemblyman Kim will have the financial resources necessary, with matching funds, to run an effective and successful campaign.”

Front runners in the race including Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake, Brooklyn City Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal Jr. will attend the forum after campaign filings show all three have qualified for the new $8 to $1 matching funds based on money raised from New York City residents. Former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who just fell short of the matching funds, will also attend.

New York City’s first citywide special election is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26 to replace Letitia James, who vacated the office to become New York State’s Attorney General. The special election is expected to cost the city around $23 million for an office with an operating budget of just over $3 million annually.

Since the office’s inception in 1993, the public advocate is first in the line of succession to the New York City mayor’s seat. The winner of the public advocate special election will take office right away, though he or she will have to run again in November’s general election.

There are no primaries for the special elections and the candidates are running on party lines they created.

Kim is running on his People over Corporations party line and has continued to use this forum as opposition to the state and city’s deal to bring Amazon’s HQ2 campus to Long Island City. Kim would rather see the nearly $3 billion in tax incentives used to lure the e-commerce giant to buy and cancel student debt. He said as public advocate he would introduce legislation in the City Council to move that forward.

Meanwhile, Ulrich, who is running on his Common Sense ticket, says as the only Republican in the race, he is the one candidate who would have independence from Mayor Bill de Blasio should he win the office of public advocate.

Ulrich says commercial rents are too high and many of the borough’s small businesses have no choice but to move to areas with lower overhead. When the Mayor announced his proposal for two weeks paid vacation, he released this statement.

“Mayor de Blasio simply doesn’t get it!” Ulrich said. “Small businesses in our city are being crushed by burdensome regulations and unfunded government mandates. Now the Mayor wants to force them to provide two weeks paid vacation at their own expense. It’s no wonder New York has become on of the least friendly cities in America.”

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