Photo courtesy of Jumaane Williams campaign
Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams is the likely winner of the Feb. 26 public advocate special election.

Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams scored a decisive win in the special election to fill the vacant office of public advocate.

Unofficial returns from the New York City Board of Elections have Williams well ahead of the field of 17 candidates, taking more than a third of the vote (133,809). Queens City Councilman Eric Ulrich was his closest competitor, but a distant second with 19.1% (77,026).

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito finished third with 11% (44,158), followed by Assemblyman Michael Blake with 8.2% (33,198) and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez with 6% (24,266). No other candidate had more than 20,000 votes.

Turnout in the race was, as expected, horrendous. So far, the BOE has tallied 402,778 votes citywide. By contrast, 1,097,846 New Yorkers cast a vote in the 2017 mayoral election — a race which had an abysmally low turnout of 23%.

The Feb. 26 nonpartisan contest was ordered following the resignation of Letitia James, who stepped down as public advocate after being elected as New York State’s new attorney general. Each candidate had to secure their own ballot lines outside of political affiliations. Political parties were permitted to make endorsements in the race, but they could not formally nominate a candidate.

Williams is expected to be sworn in as public advocate as soon as possible, and will hold the office through the end of the year. Another election will be held in November to determine who will hold the public advocate’s office for the remainder of James’ term, which expires in December 2021.

Candidates seeking to make the public advocate race in November must win their parties’ primaries in June. Ironically, petitioning for the primaries began on Feb. 26, the date of the special election.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio was quick to congratulate Williams on his victory. The public advocate is the first in the line of mayoral succession, and would succeed the mayor should he vacate the office before the end of his term.

“I join all New Yorkers in congratulating Jumaane Williams for being elected New York City’s Public Advocate,” de Blasio said. “As a former Public Advocate, I know firsthand how important this office is to our city. The Public Advocate holds our entire City government accountable and amplifies the voices of all New Yorkers. I look forward to working with Public Advocate Williams to continue making this the fairest big city in America.”

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