The County Committee of the Democratic Party of the County of New York held its biannual organizational meeting Thursday, electing its officers in a raucous 90 minutes amid hundreds of chanting and shouting county committee members. The highly structured organizational meeting was in reality rather disorganized, with a lengthy delay to the start and mid-meeting disputes as the organizers were pressed to follow the party’s rules.
An election with 17 candidates, after 31 aspirants expressed interest and campaigned, and a comparatively short three months of campaigning. Triggered by Tish James’s November election as New York State attorney general and resulting resignation as public advocate, the public advocate special election was, for New York, a unique electoral experience. Held with an unprecedented number of candidates and the absence of established party designations or nominations it was New York City’s first citywide special election. Candidate forums were the predominant public campaign activity, with several dozen held around the city by a wide range of civic and political groups. Our gallery has moments from the start to finish – take a look.
Our full public advocate special election photo retrospective gallery is available here.
The first televised debate among public advocate candidates featured 10 contestants in an Errol Louis-moderated slugfest and a protest by one of the six candidates excluded from the debate. The debate was hosted and televised by NY1.
The Board of Elections made final determinations on the public advocate special election ballot, setting a ballot of 17 candidates.
The Board eliminated five candidates who sought to be on the ballot, Ify Ike, Theo Chino, Mike Zumbluskas, Danniel Maio and Walter Iwachiw. All but Ike were eliminated for filing insufficient signatures on their petitions while Ike was eliminated for failing to timely file a certificate of acceptance. The Board placed candidate Helal Sheikh on the ballot despite Board staff having previously ruled he was ineligible due to a failure to identify on his petitions the election he was seeking to run in.
In a marked paradox the Board refused to remove candidate Latrice Walker from the ballot despite her attorney’s express request. Walker submitted sufficient petition signatures and other required documents but subsequently decided to drop out of the race. The Board ruled that it did not have authority to remove Walker and she is on the final ballot.
Eleven candidates, ten of whom expect to be on the February 26th special election ballot, joined a forum focused on health issues including HIV/AIDS prevention and education, substance use, mental health, LGBT rights, and discrimination. Sponsored by GMHC and hosted by the New School, the forum was moderated by NY1 reporter Grace Rauh and featured candidates Theo Chino, David Eisenbach, Nomiki Konst, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Jared Rich, Dawn Smalls, Jumaane Williams and Ben Yee. Rafael Espinal participated in much of the forum, departing before it concluded, and Latrice Walker joined for the last few minutes. Daniel Christmann also participated; he’s a self-described candidate but did not submit petitions to the Board of Elections and will not appear on the February 26th ballot.
A large group of East Side Democratic clubs hosted a public advocate candidate forum Thursday night, drawing 13 aspiring advocates and an audience of 150-200 people to the New York New Church on East 35th Street.
Candidates participating included Ify Ike, Nomiki Konst, Dawn Smalls, Rafael Espinal, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Danny O’Donnell, Latrice Walker, Jumaane Williams, Michael Blake, Ben Yee, Ron Kim, David Eisenbach and Theo Chino. Gwen Goodwin attended part of the forum and was introduced by the moderators, but did not participate or address the audience. Sponsoring clubs included the Eleanor Roosevelt Club, Four Freedoms Club, Tilden Democrats, GSID, East River Democrats, Village Independent Democrats, Chelsea Democrats and Manhattan Young Democrats.
16 candidates attended a public advocate candidate forum hosted by the New Kings Democrats in Brooklyn Heights. Moderated by Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max and Daily News editorial board member Alyssa Katz, the forum featured the following candidates in four separate panels: panel #1 – Gwen Goodwin, Rafael Espinal, Dawn Smalls and Theo Chino, panel #2 – Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mike Zumbluskas, Tony Herbert and David Eisenbach, panel #3 – Daniel Christmann, Jumaane Williams, Ron Kim and Michael Blake and panel #4 – Nomiki Konst, Latrice Walker, Ify Ike and Ben Yee.
Held in Brooklyn Heights’ First Unitarian Congregational Society the forum drew an audience of approximately 200. Several Brooklyn Democratic organizations held endorsement meetings immediately afterward, with the New Kings Democrats and Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats announcing endorsements of Council Member Jumaane Williams.
The Arena and Staten Island Women Who March hosted the first Staten Island public advocate candidate forum, drawing 10 candidates to Wagner College. The candidates appeared in two separate panels, with Melissa Mark-Viverito, Theo Chino, Dawn Smalls and Mike Zumbluskas on the first and Danny O’Donnell, Rafael Espinal, Ify Ike, Michael Blake and Ben Yee on the second. Jumaane Williams, scheduled to be on the first panel, arrived during the second panel and was given a few minutes at the end of the forum to speak.
13 professed candidates for public advocate appeared at a forum hosted by the Upper West Side’s Community Free Democrats Thursday night. Ify Ike, Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez, Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal, David Eisenbach, Assembly Members Michael Blake, Danny O’Donnell and Latrice Walker, Theo Chino, Nomiki Konst, Ben Yee, Dawn Smalls and former Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito had several minutes to address the audience and then field audience questions. Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal moderated the forum.
The Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club brought the rapidly building race for public advocate to the American mainland Wednesday, drawing 12 advocate aspirants to Riverdale for a candidate forum. Candidates participating were Assembly Members Michael Blake, Latrice Walker and Danny O’Donnell, Dawn Smalls, Theo Chino, Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal, Nomiki Konst, former Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ify Ike and Tony Herbert.
It’s a challenge to keep track of the multiple candidates running or considering running for public advocate. To help you do that we’ve set up a photo gallery, a book of faces perhaps, of the 21 candidates known to us. Our full photo gallery is available here.
Current public advocate Letitia James is expected to resign on or before December 31st so that she can take office as the New York State Attorney General on January 1st. The City Charter provides that when James resigns the mayor is to, within three days, set the date for a special election. These prospective candidates will then have a short period to legally become candidates for the vacancy by petitioning their way on to the special election ballot.