Letitia James handily won yesterday's $13 million Democratic runoff election for Public Advocate, predicting in her victory speech at the Copacabana that she would be "the first woman of color to hold citywide office in New York City." James, 54, will face no Republican challenger in the general election, and her victory in November is all but assured. With 99% of the precincts reporting last night, James had 59.4% of votes cast, while her 33-year-old opponent Daniel Squadron had 40.6%.
James, currently the City Council representative for District 35, which includes Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, won with the support of the Working Families Party and labor unions. (When she was elected to the City Council in 2003, she became the first person to ever win office on the Working Families Party line, the Daily News reports.)
In her speech last night, James insinuated that Squadron's campaign was supported by NYC's elite, and that her victory sent a message to the "one-percenters... Despite being outspent, we won tonight." Turnout was under 200,000, in a city with 2.8 million registered Democrats.
The Times notes that James also had the support of Gloria Steinem, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood and the local chapter of the National Organization for Women. Squadron had Chuck Schumer, a love of the Beastie Boys, and an avalanche of glossy fliers that clogged my mailbox.
During their rancorous final debate, James sought to portray Squadron as a privileged elitist, accusing him of having a trust fund (which he denied) and blasting for allowing luxury housing to be built in Brooklyn Bridge Park. (James, a staunch opponent of the Atlantic Yards project, has oft decried "the Manhattanization of Brooklyn.") Squadron accused James of hiding the fact that she was a landlord and criticized her for not releasing all of her tax info, despite having promised to do so.
At a cost of $13 million, yesterday's mandatory runoff dwarfed the budget for the Public Advocate office, which operates with $2.3 million. The office is largely toothless, but as we've seen with Bill de Blasio, it can be a stepping stone for higher office. The Public Advocate is also the first in the line of succession if the mayor is incapacitated, and has the power to audit city agencies.