Jessica Gould covers politics and public finance for WNYC.
One Week Before Runoff, Public Advocate Candidates Debate
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
There's a runoff election next Tuesday for Public Advocate, who's next in line if the mayor can't serve. In a televised debate, the two Democratic candidates were fighting hard — both to get out the vote, and against each other.
Just minutes after the debate started, sparks were already flying. State Senator Daniel Squadron accused Council member Tish James of taking contributions from corporations, failing to disclose rental income, and refusing to release her tax returns.
"Will you pledge right here that you will release your tax returns tomorrow morning?" he asked. "Yes, Dan I will release my tax returns just as I hope you'll release that you have a trust fund," she said.
Squadron said he didn't have a trust fund, that his family was a victim of Bernie Madoff.
Still, speaking to reporters after the debate, James suggested Squadron represented privileged New Yorkers, while she had roots in the working class.
"There's a clear distinction between Dan Squadron who represents the elite, the wealthy and the well-connected in the city of New York and people whose voices have been shut out of the process of the city of New York," she said.
Squadron, meanwhile, said he had spent his career fighting for the voiceless, and had a record of results on affordable housing, ethics reform and gun control.
But at times, the candidates seemed like they were running against Mayor Bloomberg. James noted Squadron did not endorse Bill Thompson in his race against the mayor. Squadron said James had voted to support Bloomberg's policies 98 percent of the time.
The biggest challenge the candidates face might be getting the vote out at all. Less than 10 percent of voters came out the last time there was a runoff for public advocate, back in 2009. That year, the comptroller's race was also on the ballot. With only one race on the ballot next Tuesday, turnout could be even lower.