During the past few months, these papers have provided ongoing coverage of the various candidates vying for office this fall, as well as overviews of the mayor’s race focused on a different topic each month. To help readers before they head to the polls on Sept. 15, we’ve created a simplified roundup for each candidate in the Democratic Primary.
If going against Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considered a long shot for Comptroller William Thompson, then Council Member Tony Avella is the longest of shots. Avella, from Queens, has spent most of his Council career as a firebrand who often casts the lone-dissenting vote on legislation. He wants to empower community boards to take a greater role in local development, pledges to increase the involvement of parents and teachers in education policy making and supports commercial rent control.
When most prominent Democrats declined to take on Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Comptroller William Thompson was the last one standing, facing only Avella, a long-shot aspirant, in the primary. As comptroller, Thompson’s alternative investment strategies helped cushion the pension fund when the economy collapsed. He knocks the mayor for being overly focused on Wall Street and real estate, a strategy that he says has harmed the middle class, and he promises to diversify. He would create an independent body to study student progress, and wants to mitigate the taxes, fees and fines that he says burden small businesses.
In the City Council, Melinda Katz chairs the powerful Land Use Committee, which oversees all development projects that need zoning changes. That has helped her raise campaign cash from real estate interests, but Katz says she has also pushed for affordable housing, fair labor wages and buildings that fit within a community’s context. Before her Council election, she worked in the Queens borough president’s office and she was a State Assembly member. As comptroller, Katz promises to invest a portion of pension funds in successful but debt-strapped companies that do business in New York, to help spur local job creation.
John Liu is a reserved City Council member from Queens, but he also has a reputation for being a pit bull during committee hearings. As chair of the Transportation Committee, he claims to be the first elected official to discover the now-infamous “two sets of books” the MTA was using. Liu promises to use his tenacity when auditing city agencies, which the comptroller must do every four years. He also wants to audit and track stimulus funds coming to the city. On pensions, Liu wants to return to traditional, low-risk, low-yield investment strategies.
David Weprin wants voters to understand that he knows the buck. The Queens Council member chairs the Finance Committee, which must pass the city’s budget. He was also Gov. Mario Cuomo’s state superintendent on banking. His position in the Council has baggage, as he was partly blamed for not catching the slush fund scandal sooner. Nonetheless, he is touting his experience and his willingness to stand up to the mayor when appropriate, as he did when opposing the term-limit extension. Weprin plans to open satellite comptroller offices that would focus on financial literacy and assistance programs.
In a field of comptroller candidates from Queens, David Yassky is the lone Brooklynite. He is also the only candidate who supports the creation of a new level of pension benefits that would ease the city’s budget woes, but that remains unpopular with unions. Yassky points to his record in the City Council, where he worked to eliminate waste in the Housing Department, assisted in closing a tax loophole used by luxury developers and supported creating gas-electric hybrid taxis. He promises to invest a small portion of pension funds into biotechnology companies and increase transparency; during the campaign, he put the city’s budget online, at www.ItsYourMoneyNYC.com.
Bill de Blasio
Council Member Bill de Blasio became Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief antagonist during the fight to extend term limits. The successful extension ruined de Blasio’s plans to run for Brooklyn borough president, but he found a spot in the public advocate’s race. He was quickly endorsed by most of the city’s elected officials. As the city’s ombudsman, de Blasio said he would stand up to a powerful mayor when necessary and promises to work collaboratively with other elected officials to get results.
This two-term Queens Council member built a network of support from unions and young professionals, winning his first term without the backing of the borough’s Democratic organization. Gioia is capitalizing on this “outsider” status in his bid to be the city’s ombudsman and is touting his effective use of publicity to drive policy change. In 2007, he went on food stamps for a week, then pushed for legislation that would put applications online. He says he will continue working to improve schools, fighting for economic justice and holding government accountable.
Voters may remember Mark Green as the city’s first public advocate who served during the Giuliani years, when he sued the mayor for withholding information on racial profiling and police misconduct, and he served as a general foil to many administration policies. He promises to continue that “aggressive progressive” platform, standing up to City Hall and helping government better serve New Yorkers. Since his unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2001, he has been president of Air America Radio, the liberal talk radio network that was owned by his real estate mogul brother, Stephen.
This is civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel’s third bid for public advocate, following his unsuccessful challenge of incumbent Betsy Gotbaum in 2005. Siegel, who says the public advocate needs to be visible, a big mouth and a fighter, points to his record representing groups like the 2004 Republican National Convention protestors and West Harlem tenants in their battle against Columbia University. He plans to recruit hundreds of volunteers to be “surrogate public advocates” in each community, and create an “Institute of Advocacy” to help New Yorkers make themselves heard.
Manhattan District Attorney
Richard Aborn, a former assistant district attorney under Robert Morgenthau, stormed into the district attorney race as a dark-horse candidate. Yet his campaign has gained momentum after most of the borough’s elected officials, including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, endorsed his campaign. A gun-control advocate who was behind the federal assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill, Aborn is running on a platform of providing alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders and expanding the use of technology in the office.
Leslie Crocker Snyder
Manhattan District Attorney
This year, Leslie Crocker Snyder is mounting her second attempt to be Manhattan’s top prosecutor. In 2005, the former State Supreme Court judge ran against incumbent Robert Morgenthau, who had been in office since 1974. Snyder, a former assistant district attorney, was the first woman to prosecute homicides, founded Manhattan’s Sex Crimes Bureau and co-authored the Rape Shield Law. As district attorney, she would create a Second Look Bureau to address wrongful convictions and connect prosecutors to local law enforcement, civic and religious groups.
Cyrus Vance, Jr.
Manhattan District Attorney
Retiring prosecutor Robert Morgenthau chose Cy Vance, his former assistant district attorney, to be his successor. Vance, the son of President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state, has been a defense lawyer in Seattle, Wash. for most of his career, litigating white collar crimes at a national firm. He plans to develop a community-based justice model in neighborhoods to better attack problems such as domestic violence and discrimination against immigrants. If elected, Vance would tackle the criminal court backlog and form special units for mental health issues and hate crimes.
Tags: Bill de Blasio, comptroller, Cyrus Vance Jr., David Weprin, David Yassky, Election, Eric Gioia, John Liu, Leslie Crocker Snyder, Manhattan District Attorney, Mark Green, mayor, Melinda Katz, Michael Bloomberg, Norman Siegel, Politics, Public Advocate, Richard Aborn, Tony Avella, William Thompson
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