In 2013, Letitia (“Tish”) James was elected Public Advocate for the City of New York. She was the first Black woman to hold a citywide office in NYC. In 2018, Tish ran for New York Attorney General.
On Nov. 6, she became the first African-American and first woman to be elected to the position.
James’ successful campaign has created the need for a special election to fill the soon to be vacant NYC Public Advocate position. When this happens on Jan. 1, Bill de Blasio will call for the election, which must occur at least 45 days later, likely in February.
So far, a dozen candidates have officially announced their campaigns for the position including Bushwick’s District 37 City Councilmember , Rafael Espinal. If elected, he’ll make history as well, as the first Latino elected to a citywide position.
This election is important. The advocate is first in line of succession to the Mayor and charged with acting as a watchdog over city agencies and investigating citizens’ complaints about city services.
The position has also been a launching pad for greater political ambitions. In the 24 years since its creation, all but one of the advocates have run for higher office. Most recently, James – elected Attorney General, Bill de Blasio elected to Mayor, and Mark Green who ran but lost elections for U.S. Senate and NY Attorney General.
Some examples of important initiatives sponsored by previous Public Advocates include, de Blasio’s Landlord Watchlist, Betsy Gotbaum’s successful initiative to simplify the food stamp application process and more recently James’ successful introduction of legislation to fight against the wage gap of women and minorities in the workforce.
James continued to endorse the Landlord Watchlist during her tenure, along with supporting a number of additional policy initiatives aimed at addressing the general public’s needs including, Gender Wage Gap, Affordable Housing, Criminal Justice Reform and Education.
Like James, Espinal has championed efforts for social justice in and around Bushwick. One of his recent campaigns includes fighting sexual harassment in nightlife.
If Councilman Espinal is elected into this coveted position, it will trigger another special election for his seat on the council which would have major implications for Bushwick.
Council Members are elected every four years. Councilmember Espinal was inaugurated into his second term in January 2018. This means that if Espinal is successfully elected to the NY Public Advocate position, the winner of the subsequent special election for the 37th District Rep seat will have three years to make an impact before the seat is contested again.
If you are interested in meeting with Espinal and learning more more about his run for Public Advocate, he will be at House of Yes this Tuesday at 7 p.m. to discuss his campaign.
Bushwick Daily will continue to follow the race and its potential impacts on the neighborhood in the coming months.