Tish James to be First African-American Woman to Hold Citywide Office

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tish James won the runoff for public advocate. (Jessica Gould for WNYC)

Council member Letitia James has won the runoff for public advocate, beating State Senator Daniel Squadron. With 100% of returns reporting, James had 59 percent of the vote to Dan Squadron's 41 percent.  The votes were sharply divided along racial lines, with nearly all black-majority precincts voting for James and most white-majority districts choosing Squadron.

"I'm Every Woman' by Whitney Houston blasted as James took the stage at her victory party at the Copacabana in Midtown. The crowd of supporters was ebullient and interrupted James with cheers as she talked about her historic win.

"Today you elected me the first -- " she said, before choking as supporters yelled "Say it! Say it!"  

"The first woman of color to hold citywide office," she completed, to loud applause.

There was a significant racial gap in this election, with James carrying communities that are majority African American and Hispanic, and Squadron carrying areas that are majority white.

The runoff was marked by a bitter back-and-forth between the two candidates; each accused the other of being too cozy with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and failing to be forthright about their personal finances.

Squadron got endorsements from the New York Times, Senator Chuck Schumer, and two of the three former public advocates.

James was backed by many unions, women's groups and the Working Families Party.  The Working Families Party claimed the James win as "a major victory," noting that James had been the first city council member to win election on the WFP line. 

Political observers said she had a particular edge in an election year when white men are poised to take the city's top jobs of mayor and comptroller.

The public advocate is known as the city's watch dog, and is first in the line of succession if the mayor is unable to serve.

With no Republican challenger, James is expected to take office in January.


More in:

Comments [12]

Harvey Wachtel from Kew Gardens

I'm disappointed to hear about the racial breakdown, especially when the Democratic mayoral primary vote was divided mostly on ideological lines, with many blacks backing DeBlasio and many whites favoring Thompson. I had been nurturing a fond hope that New Yorkers had moved beyond identity politics.

Personally, I'm a white male who voted for Letitia mostly because of her record on women's issues. I'd like to see everyone making decisions on that kind of basis, whether I agree with them or not.

P.S. What's the problem with the picture? She looks like a well-groomed professional woman. Is that supposed to be bad?

Oct. 02 2013 11:22 AM
John from office

So voting for a white person makes you a racist?? That mentality is racist. Ms. James will now take 6 months to go to many dinners where her title will be proclaimed, remodel her office, like Blackburn, and then do nothing.

Oct. 02 2013 11:04 AM
woman from NYC

@ janjan from westchester
True, but while you focus on first AfAm___ I see first AfAm WOMAN!

Oct. 02 2013 10:55 AM
janjan from westchester

still amazed when I see "first African American ____", seriously, our country is still so stodgy in so many areas.

Oct. 02 2013 10:38 AM

I saw first-hand the endemic racism James was up against last night Voters in my district clearly voted along racial lines with whites voting overwhelmingly for Squadron simply because he's white.
My district is Manhattan/Midtown.

Never knew our neighborhood was so racist.

Oct. 02 2013 10:36 AM
rhbk12 from nyc
This is a creative commons photo on flickr - feel free to use this one wnyc :)

I had no horse in this race.

Oct. 02 2013 10:21 AM
Bob from New York

Please use better pictures of Public Advocate James in your articles. You have covered her much over the years and I am sure have better photos. Let's not be a public radio station that undermines the public in its representation of public figures.

Oct. 02 2013 10:09 AM
stefano giovannini from 11206

Terrible photo,so unflattering. Not representative of Tish James.

Anyway interesting that many candidates endorsed by the NY Times lost.

Oct. 02 2013 09:46 AM

John from office - 'reverts back' is redundant and your views on politics are ignorant and uninformed. Break free from your cocoon of ignorance and try meeting people that are not exactly like, you perhaps you'll find a small bit a humanity.

Oct. 02 2013 09:39 AM
Ora from Broooklyn

I didn't think the media was going ti highlight this fact. Not only is she the first African American women to hold a citywide position, she is the most capable one for this position, regardless of race or gender.

Oct. 02 2013 09:17 AM
john from office

James and soon DeBlasio, the city reverts back to the 70's. Soon, riots, graffiti, wilding, negociating with gang leaders and poor leadership. James is not qualified to sit as the Advocate, but race trumps all, I guess.

Oct. 02 2013 08:41 AM
M from Brooklyn

Could you have picked a less flattering photo? Jeez.

Oct. 02 2013 08:33 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


Latest Newscast




WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public


Supported by