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Voters' turn to advocate for the city

People enter a polling site at Public School

People enter a polling site at Public School 261 on Nov. 8, 2016 in New York City. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Drew Angerer

New York City voters get a bonus election this year, on Tuesday, to pick among 17 candidates for public advocate. Yes, 17.

The spot became vacant when Letitia James left after she was elected state attorney general.

Her promotion is one reason you should go vote in this race: Both James and her immediate predecessor, Bill de Blasio, have gone on to big things, so the role can be a launchpad. Candidates are salivating for it.

Also, the public advocate, who makes $184,800 a year, is next in line of succession to the mayor — the city’s version of a vice president.

But unlike a vice president, the public advocate is typically meant to be a check on the mayor. Like the name suggests, the winner is supposed to advocate for the public.

It sometimes feels as if the public advocate uses the office mostly to advocate for him or herself. But a good public advocate can use the bully pulpit to make the mayor and others pay attention. From NYCHA to the subways to the rent in New York, the city has plenty of problems that can use highlighting. Elect a good complainer.

With almost enough candidates running to field a baseball game, voters have plenty of choices, though the ballot and process are pretty chaotic. There’s no runoff, and no minimum victory percentage, so someone can win with a low percentage and a small margin. This is a nonpartisan election, so candidates don’t appear on familiar Democrat, Republican, Working Families or other ballot lines.

And the winner might get only a short moment in the sun. Tuesday’s winner will serve just until the end of the year. In June, there are likely to be primaries on the major party lines for who will run in the November election. That winner gets the job through 2021. Got all that?

But victory on Tuesday gets the winner a foot in the door, and whoever has the job come next year would be well-positioned to run for mayor in 2021.

Polls are open to registered voters from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Check your registration and find other info at

Feel special. Go vote.


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