Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a proclamation on Wednesday that set Tuesday, February 26, as the date of the special election for public advocate. The race is expected to feature more than a dozen candidates including Brooklyn hopefuls Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal, as well as Assemblymember Latrice Walker. 

The position officially became vacant on Monday night when the former Public Advocate Letitia James was sworn in as New York State attorney general.

“It is my pleasure to announce that the special election for public advocate will take place on Tuesday, February 26, 2019,” said de Blasio. “This date will help maximize voter turnout, and my administration will work around the clock to make sure every New Yorker is encouraged to exercise their right to vote.”

Flatbush Councilmember Jumaane Williams, a progressive Democrat who has focused on anti-gun violence, affordable housing and community policing, was first to announce his candidacy after the 2018 NY state primaries in September.

“New York City needs to live up to its promise as a progressive beacon, and the government needs not just to legislate but to listen,” Williams said. “Too many working-class New Yorkers are struggling, and this city belongs to them — not just to the rich or the real estate lobby. As public advocate, I will fight to make this city affordable, equitable and just for the many, not the few.”

After November’s general elections, East New York Councilmember Rafael Espinal entered the race; he has been a strong advocate for more sustainability in NYC with proposed legislation for a plastic straws ban, green roofs for commercial buildings and a push for environmentally-friendly transportation such as e-bikes and e-scooters.

“I feel the concerns of my fellow New Yorkers, who often worry if they will be able to continue to afford living here, if the MTA will be working, if we are doing everything we can to improve our environment,” said Espinal. “We can’t continue being a city that is driven by crisis. Instead, we should be shaping the future of our city with new ideas that will create sustainable solutions.”

Brownsville Assemblymember Latrice Walker announced her run at the end of November. As an advocate and practicing attorney, Walker has worked to preserve and create affordable housing and has been a strong proponent of criminal justice reforms including changing the cash bail system.

“As a single mom, I want quality education and health care for my daughter,” said Walker. “And not just for her, but for children all across the city of New York. And I am fighting for people being able to afford to live in the city they grew up in.”

Other elected officials who have announced their candidacy include former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and Assemblymembers Daniel O’Donnell, Ron Kim and Michael Blake. The only Republican to join the crowded field of Democratic candidates is Councilmember Erich Ulrich.

As a non-voting member of the New York City Council, the public advocate has the right to introduce and co-sponsor legislation, and serves as an ombudsman who provides oversight for city agencies, investigates citizens’ complaints about city services and makes proposals to address any of their shortcomings; the PA is also the first in line to succeed the mayor.

With the mayor’s announcement, the race is officially on: Candidates now have less than two weeks to collect at least 3,750 signatures to get on the ballot.

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