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Council Member Tish James wins Democratic runoff for Public Advocate, will be first black woman elected to citywide office; FCR supported opponent

In a runoff election because no candidate hit 40% in the Democratic primary, 35th District Council Member (and Atlantic Yards opponent) Letitia (Tish) James beat Brooklyn state Senator Daniel Squadron with nearly 60% of the vote after a sometimes bitter race.

That's tantamount to victory, though there are small-party challengers on the ballot in November. (The expensive runoff also prompted a push for instant runoff voting, in which voters mark second preferences at the primary.)

Though turnout was low (under 200,000), given no others on the ballot, it was higher than expected, a tribute perhaps to James's strength with unions, the Working Families Party, her campaign push, and the notion that, in a city where white men are poised to win the mayor's office and comptroller, it would be good to have a minority woman in citywide office.

Indeed, as James said emotionally in her victory speech (on NY1), flanked by Comptroller John Liu and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, she'd be the first black woman to hold a citywide office.

"No, Mayor Bloomberg, we don't need any more millionaires," she said, suggesting the city needs to boost working families and the middle class. (Of course, Bloomberg would say millionaires help pay the bills.) She ran hard against Bloomberg, echoing Bill de Blasio's mayoral strategy, while painting Squadron as a Bloomberg supporter.

James vs. Squadron


Note the turnout in Central Brooklyn and Brownstone Brooklyn, according to WNYC's map, below. And note, in this WNYC map, above, how James won heavily in black and Hispanic districts.

The summary

As the Times reported:
Ms. James, who held a packed victory party at the Copacabana in Midtown, gave a sermonlike victory speech to cheering supporters, saying that she would be proud to make history as “the first woman of color to hold citywide office in New York City,” promising to fight for middle-class New Yorkers, and suggesting that Mr. Squadron had been supported by the political elite and “one-percenters.”
“Despite being outspent, we won tonight,” she said.
A former public defender and assistant New York State attorney general, she was first elected to the City Council in 2003 on the Working Families Party’s ballot line, becoming the first member of the party elected to office in New York State.
On the Council, she was an outspoken critic of the Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn [not actually downtown], arguing that it was too large and would lead to “the Manhattanization of Brooklyn.” She also opposed the extension of term limits by the Council in 2008.
Ms. James, who described herself in one of the primary debates as “a thorn to bureaucracy and those who represent the elite throughout the City of New York,” said that as public advocate she would focus on affordable housing and taking the concerns of public school parents to the Education Department.
In addition to labor unions, she was endorsed by Gloria Steinem and women’s groups like Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood and the local chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Mr. Squadron was endorsed by Senator Charles E. Schumer, the two former public advocates, and three daily newspapers.
Those daily endorsements didn't work for Council Speaker Christine Quinn, either.

The Ratner connection

As I wrote last March, In the race for Public Advocate, where James was one of three [later four] candidates, Forest City-related contributions clearly favored fundraising leader Squadron, who's pretty much sat out the AY debate and is close with project supporter  Schumer.

Bruce Ratner's sister Ellen Ratner gave the maximum $4950 to Squadron, as did his wife Pamela Lipkin. Also, Bruce Ratner bundled two max contributions from the two associates, Arthur and Selma Rabin. That's a total of four contributions worth $17,800.

Also, Forest City executives Ashley Cotton and MaryAnne Gilmartin gave Squadron $400 and $200, respectively.

That's not to say James would focus on Atlantic Yards in the rather undefined job of Public Advocate.

But it's likely she'll approach AY with more skepticism than either Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio, who tops the polls, or Republican nominee Joe Lhota. After all, she was quoted last week regarding a legal victory by those challenging the state's re-approval of the project:
“The Court has acknowledged what many of my constituents have known all along—that an agency of the State of New York has failed, and continues to fail, to represent their interests in favor of those of a powerful corporate developer,” said Councilmember Letitia James, who represents the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill and Crown Heights. “ESDC needs to bring fundamental change to the oversight of this project to ensure public benefits get delivered before private profit.”


  1. My name is James Lane and I want to make history as the first Green Party Public Advocate of New York City!


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