Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed councilmember Brad Lander in the packed race for New York City comptroller on Wednesday morning.
The pick solidifies Lander as the de-facto progressive candidate in the crowded race, having amassed endorsements from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and groups including the Working Families Party, Make the Road Action and New York Communities for Change.
“Brad has a powerful vision for how to lead New York City towards a just recovery, embracing investments in good green jobs and truly affordable housing, and building on his track record of working in deep partnership with communities to ensure no one is left behind,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “That’s the kind of leadership our city needs to face the challenges of the future.”
The national progressive icon holds undeniable starpower, but it remains to be seen how influential her support will be in turning out voters in local elections. In past elections, she’d backed Tiffany Cabán for District Attorney and Samelys Lopez for Congress, neither of whom won. Still, Lander said he’d been courting her endorsement since last year.
“I’ve been trying for months to get a call on the calendar with her,” Lander said. She finally scheduled him the coveted slot last week, which we expected to be more of an informational interview, but he said, Ocasio-Cortez was ready to endorse right away.
“She basically was like, ‘This was a no-brainer, let’s do it next week,’” he said.
The comptroller serves as watchdog over the city’s finances and acts as a steward of the $248 billion public pension funds. Candidates often try to use the position as a springboard to higher office, or alternatively, a landing pad when your prospects of securing higher office are out of reach.
Two candidates in the race, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Zach Iscol (a military veteran and nonprofit founder) both backed out of the mayor’s race before setting their sites on the office of comptroller. The city’s current comptroller Scott Stringer, who tried to run for mayor in 2012, dropped out of that race to run for comptroller. He is now bidding for mayor a second time.
So far four candidates in the race have secured public funds through the city’s matching program; Iscol, State Senator Brian Benjamin, State Assemblymember David Weprin and Lander, who’s amassed the largest campaign coffer so far, with $3.4 million in combined public and private funds.
Though Speaker Johnson took a belated plunge into the race, he did so out of the gate with union backing from the Hotel Trades Council and DC37 and more than $800,000 in funds that transferred over from his fundraiser for the mayoral campaign.
Iscol’s campaign hit a snag this week with the Board of Elections. Board of Elections officials said he hadn’t mentioned the Democratic Party on the petitions of voter signatures submitted to the board, meaning he could potentially be booted from the ballot when commissioners take up the issue at meetings in mid-April. Iscol’s campaign manager Sam Rivers refuted the board’s findings, providing a copy of the petition the campaign used that listed the Democratic party twice.
“We’ll be on the ballot,” Rivers said. “We’re very confident that this is gonna be resolved.”