In the highly contested special election for New York City public advocate on Tuesday, Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams scored a decisive victory, beating out 16 other candidates. 

Williams captured 33 percent of the votes, defeating Queens Councilmember Eric Ulrich by a 14-percent margin and prevailing in a field that included former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, State Assemblymember Michael Blake and fellow Brooklyn Councilmember Rafael Espinal. 

In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio set a special election to fill the position vacated by Letitia James after she was elected New York State attorney general in November. Williams was first to announce his candidacy and was widely considered the front-runner after coming close to clinching the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor during last year’s primaries.

Supporters gathered on Tuesday at Flatbush’s Cafe Omar, waiting for the election results to come in. Photo credit: A. Leonhardt for BK Reader

“This campaign may have been relatively short, but this journey has been long,” addressed the visibly moved public advocate-elect his enthusiastic supporters at a victory party in Flatbush. “It traces back across years of working with all of you on the issues that matter to all of us, and as we fought for transformational change in the streets and in the halls of government.”

Williams first took office in 2009 as councilmember of the 45th District, representing Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Midwood and Marine Park. As a progressive with a long history of on-the-ground activism, he since has focused on anti-gun violence, affordable housing and community policing, causes he intends to continue fighting for.

Williams’ campaign members hugging each other after their candidate was declared the official winner of the special election. Photo credit: A. Leonhardt for BK Reader

“We must solve the affordable housing and homelessness crisis that we face,” said Williams. “We must end a system of injustice that criminalizes black and brown communities, and give those who got caught up in the system a second chance. We must combat the epidemic of gun violence and revitalize our communities — not with over-policing, but with investment in the people on the ground who are doing work to save lives.”

In his new role, which Williams dubbed the “People’s Advocate” while on the campaign trail, he will serve as an ombudsman who provides oversight for city agencies and investigates citizens’ complaints about city services.

And, Williams will also be the first in line to succeed the mayor, a job, he is not looking to take on, he said.

“To the mayor: I’m not running for your job,” he said, laughing. “But together, we have to make sure that government is working on behalf of the people. We will create a New York City that is just, equitable, affordable and accessible. We won’t focus on constraints, but on the possibility and potential for our city.”

Patricia Williams announcing her son, Public Advocate-Elect Jumaane Williams. Photo credit: A. Leonhardt for BK Reader

For now, Williams will fill the role as public advocate for the remainder of the year. He will have to face a potential June primary and the November general in order to serve the remainder of the James’ term, which runs through 2021.

See the complete list of candidates and the final results below.

Jumaane Williams, 133,107 (33.3%)

Eric Ulrich, 76,047, (19.0%)

Melissa Mark-Viverito, 43,973 (11.0%)

Michael Blake, 33,070 (8.3%)

Ydanis Rodriguez, 24,235 (6.1%)

Dawn Smalls, 16,431 (4.1%)

Rafael Espinal, 12,880 (3.2%)

Daniel O’Donnell, 11,415 (2.9%)

Ron Kim, 11,397 (2.8%)

Benjamin Yee, 10,368 (2.6%)

Nomiki Konst, 9,318 (2.3%)

Helal Sheikh, 5,020 (1.3%)

David Eisenbach, 3,178 (0.8%)

Manny Alicandro, 2,992 (0.7%)

Anthony Herbert 2,913 (0.7%)

Latrice Walker, 2,278 (0.6%)

Jared Rich, 935 votes (0.2 %)

(Please note that we are not listing party affiliations as all special elections in New York City are nonpartisan.)

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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