We've been hearing about the NYC Comptroller candidates for months but what exactly are we electing them to do as comptroller? We spoke to Hunter College political science professor emeritus Kenneth Sherrill, who explains that the comptroller has two main functions. "One is to preside over the investments of municipal pension funds, which gives the Comptroller a lot of power. The other is to audit city agencies. The comptroller basically serves as a check and balance on the mayor and the city council and the other branches of government."

For a more in-depth look at the job and the people who've held it, read the rest of professor Sherrill's interview.

2013 Comptroller Candidates:

  • Eliot Spitzer (D): Native New Yorker from the Bronx; lawyer turned New York Attorney General; elected Governor of New York in 2006 then resigned in 2008.

  • Scott Stringer (D): Native New Yorker from Washington Heights; served 13 years in the State Assembly; Borough President of Manhattan since 2006.
  • We asked both Democratic candidates for Comptroller to answer a questionnaire for their positions on issues facing the borough, as well as some personal information relevant to the job. We'll be doing the same for other races, including Public Advocate and Mayor, as soon as we receive responses from each candidate.

    Mouse-over icons for quotes from the candidates and more details about the questions.

    Do you rent?Do you have a pet?Do you bike?Do your kids attend public school?Do you ride public transportation?Do you manage your own finances?

    Scott Stringer
    Manhattan Boro Prez.

    Eliott Spitzer
    Former Governor

    What are the biggest areas of waste and corruption in NYC government and how would you fix them?

    Spitzer: "One of the biggest areas of waste is the no bid contracts the City gives out yearly. As comptroller, I would conduct a thorough review of these no bid contracts and evaluate what New Yorkers received in exchange for their hard-earned tax dollars. Additionally, the City pays entirely too much in management fees to the pensions' investment managers. Four hundred million dollars is absurd. As comptroller, I will cut these fees significantly, to make sure more of our money goes to New Yorkers, not money managers."

    Stringer: "As Borough President, my office identified tens of millions of dollars in wasteful spending...[and]...shined a light on how the Department of Education had failed to apply for millions in Medicaid reimbursements for programs aiding special education students. As comptroller...I would examine large contracts earlier in the process, during pre-bid conferences, and not just at the moment of registration when the details are all but set. That way red flags could be raised sooner and taxpayers would be better protected."

    How would you improve performance and oversight for city pension funds?

    Spitzer: "Our city pension funds represent $140 billion of leverage to affect corporate governance. Part of that leverage should be used to reduce our $400 million in management feeds that we pay to funds. As comptroller, I would conduct a thorough review of return on our management fees, and use our leverage to negotiate better deals for our city workers."

    Stringer: "In partnership with the other pension trustees, we must continue to carefully diversity our investments and systematically lower volatility, manage risk and reduce manager fees. Diversifying our portfolio means not only optimizing our asset allocation but also addressing risk allocation by comprehensively evaluating and monitoring it throughout our investments to protect our funds from excessive loss during economic downturns. I will seek to expand the capacity and expertise of the in-house investment staff to enable the best and most efficient investment practices."

    Inspector General?
    Greater transparency into NYC terrorism funding and operations?
    Invest City pensions in hedge funds?
    Controversial companies in City pension funds?
    Raise minimum wage?
    Sick leave?

    Spitzer, who's funding his own campaign, has given himself $3,703,323.19 from "Spitzer Engineering Real Estate," his family business. Stringer has amassed a nearly identical $3,195,518.13 in campaign contributions. A recent Quinnipiac poll indicates that Spitzer leads Stringer by 19 points; broken down 58-37 perfect among men, 54-36 percent among women and 68-21 percent among black voters. Spitzer has been endorsed by the Civil Service Employees Association of New York and the 504 Democratic Club, a group that champions disability rights. Stringer has been endorsed by Chrstine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, Marty Markowitz and many, many other elected officials and important entities.

    To read the candidates full responses to our questionnaire, click below:

    Election charts designed by Aaron Marks

    Previously: The Gothamist Guide to the Manhattan Borough President Race, The Gothamist Guide to the Queens Borough President Race, The Gothamist Guide to the Brooklyn Borough President Race

    Gothamist and our partners, NY1 News, NY1 Noticias, WNYC, Citizens Committee for New York City, Citizens Union, Hispanic Federation, and Transportation Alternatives, are sponsoring official Campaign Finance Board debates, including the official Democratic mayoral debate on August 21.