It could be that there were more people on the ballot for Public Advocate than people who voted at one time at a polling place. Seventeen candidates ran for this office which serves the public’s interest within city government and is first in succession to become mayor. I voted at 9:30 a.m., I was the sole voter in my polling place at that time.
98% of precincts reported 400,264 cast a vote in this special election. Our new Public Advocate is Council Member Jumaane D. Williams of the 45th District, who ran under the “It’s Time Let’s Go” tagline (as special elections are nonpartisan). He received 57,060 more votes than his runner up, Eric Ulrich (tagline: Common Sense).
At his victory celebration, his mother introduced him and his first words were, “I’m a little bit in shock.” He first thanked New York City, then all of his staff, supporters, and fellow electeds who supported him, among those named was Council Member Antonio Reynoso.
“The biggest complaint I used to get as a council member was that I was too much of an activist, and I said that was the only way things get done in this country,” stated Williams in a campaign ad. He sees his role as an activist-elected official. He regularly attends rallies and has been arrested multiple times at protests he attended, one of them for stronger rent laws. One of his touchstone phrases, “The people who said it can’t be done, please move out of the way of the people who are doing it,” was used when he campaigned for Bernie Sanders, and he featured it in his own campaign for Public Advocate.
Housing justice is a mainstay of Williams’ public advocate platform. He is also looking to expand local voting rights, support criminal justice reform, legalize marijuana, improve mass transit, and increase transparency and accountability in local government. He’d also like to amp up his role with the ability to cast a vote in the city council plus have subpoena powers. The public advocate can introduce legislation but can’t vote.
Williams’ victory wasn’t too much of a shock to the public. Shortly after he announced his candidacy for Public Advocate he was a designated frontrunner. So much so, that that by January 3rd five candidates announced they were running to fill his council seat if he did win. The City Council 45th District seat will be filled in a special election later this year, on a date set by the mayor.
Jumaane Williams will serve as Public Advocate through 2019. Public Advocate will once again be on the ballot this fall with Williams listed as the incumbent.