Jumaane Williams sets sights on public advocate race

Jumaane Williams sets sights on public advocate race

The Brooklyn councilman wants to fight for the New Yorkers “getting priced out.”

Jumaane Williams announced Tuesday his intention to run for public advocate if Letitia James becomes New York attorney general. 
Jumaane Williams announced Tuesday his intention to run for public advocate if Letitia James becomes New York attorney general.  Photo Credit: Daniel Avila

City Councilman Jumaane Williams is ready to hit the campaign trail to be the next public advocate after seeing "an appetite" for his brand of politics during his failed bid for lieutenant governor.

The third-term Brooklyn councilman announced Tuesday that he has opened a campaign committee with the Board of Elections for the public advocate race, should Letitia “Tish” James win her bid for New York Attorney General in November and vacate the role. 

The public advocate, the city’s second highest elected office, acts as a watchdog on city agencies and investigates complaints from the public. The individual can also introduce legislation in the City Council. 

Williams, who lost the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination to incumbent Kathy Hochul by about 6 percentage points, said there was a question during the race of whether “the type of politics I put forward, the type of principled way that I’ve done the job, not dealing to play the political game, and doing what’s right” would resonate with New Yorkers. 

“The question was, was there an appetite for that kind of campaign, and the number one lesson was that yes, there is,” he said. 

Williams, who was endorsed by the Working Families Party in his run for lieutenant governor, received more than 600,000 votes statewide, or about 42.3 percent, according to the Board of Elections’ unofficial results. He received more than 400,000 votes in New York City. 

“It is a completely different race,” Williams said of running for public advocate. “So we’re starting from scratch, but we understand that minimally our message is receptive in New York City.”

The councilman said the number one issue for the city is affordability, and he wants to use the role to fight for people getting priced out of their homes. 

Though the public advocate office can be a springboard to Gracie Mansion (Mayor Bill de Blasio was public advocate before running for mayor), Williams says that’s not what he’s after, at least not in 2021. 

“I just want to make sure it is abundantly clear that I’m in this because people are getting priced out of New York City and it doesn’t seem like there’s enough voices standing up for them,” he said. 

If James wins the attorney general race against Republican Keith Wofford in November, de Blasio will have to call a special election for public advocate, which will be held in early 2019. There wouldn’t be a primary, and anyone who collects enough signatures could get on the ballot.

Several other City Council members, including Joseph Borelli, Robert E. Cornegy Jr., Rafael L. Espinal Jr., Antonio Reynoso, Donovan J. Richards, Ydanis Rodriguez, Ritchie Torres and Eric A. Ulrich, have expressed interest in the position, according to reports. Former City Council speakers Christine C. Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito also are possible contenders. 

Nicole Brown