Dissecting a Crain’s Article on the 2013 Public Advocate’s Race

Letitia James in the City Council.
Letitia James in the City Council.

A curious article from Crain’s New York Business on Monday points to the 2013 public advocate’s race, namely the popular local City Council member Letitia James, who has thrown her hat into the race.

Since the current public advocate, Bill deBlasio, is ditching his post to run for mayor, the site’s Insider blog had a few things to say about who might replace him. We thought it was ripe for picking.

On the phone with James today, she told us, “Crain’s represents what Crain’s represents.”

Adding, “If people are interested in supporting me, the next 30 days are critical to the campaign. I urge progressives to go online and donate what you can.”

Here’s the premise.

Last week, The Insider wrote about the ramifications on the race of the fact that the frontrunners in the other citywide contests are white: Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for comptroller. That makes New York City labor unions with large minority memberships more likely to back a person of color for the other citywide office, public advocate, insiders say.

So let’s reference ourselves and base this conversation about citywide office on the color of a candidate’s skin? Ok. Um. Go on.

Ms. James, who is African-American and has strong labor ties, would seem to be a logical choice. However, her weak fundraising has raised concerns among some top union officials, who have been discussing the prospect of finding another minority candidate with strong labor ties to enter the race, two union sources said. Whether Ms. James comes through with better numbers in her January campaign finance disclosure may determine whether those plans go beyond the discussion phase, said one top New York City union official.

Logical is a funny word to use here. Translation: Ms. James is the right color for progressives, but does not have the big business dollars to help elect her.

“It’s being actively discussed, and there have been discussions going on about whether or not to reach out to people,” the official said. “It’s finally been decided we’re going to wait until January and see what happens.”

Through her first year of fundraising (ending in July,) Ms. James had raised $271,000 while burning through $128,000—leaving about $143,000 on hand. Along with the low figures, her high burn rate has also raised some concerns among union officials.

Translation: Numbers, numbers, numbers. Since James doesn’t take money from real estate developers we’re not sure she can win so maybe we’ll choose someone else.

Of course, the argument could be made that the unions should simply give to Ms. James now in order to ensure her viability. Ms. James (unlike some other female candidates running this year, like Manhattan borough president candidate Julie Menin, who has Wall Street ties) does not represent an affluent district and is more reliant on big institutional players such as labor.

Oh! You could make that argument, huh? Maybe a few graphs up would have been better. ALSO, REAL REAL ESTATE IS A BIGGER PLAYER THAN LABOR. And really, who are we talking about here, Crain’s?

A adviser to her campaign told The Insider, “In Tish exploring a run for citywide office, she is getting encouragement and support from all over the city including from a number of civic, elected and labor leaders.”

That’s because she has already advocated for the public. Actually doing the job makes you better at doing it.

If Ms. James were to falter in January, a likely place to pluck a new candidate would be from borough president races. Brooklyn state Sen. Eric Adams would be one possibility, but seems to have a relatively clear path in his current race. A stronger possibility would be Queens state Sen. Jose Peralta, but another union official said that Mr. Peralta seems strong committed to running in the multi-candidate, highly competitive Queens borough president’s race. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. would have been a logical pick, but he recently announced that after eyeing the public advocate job he would run for re-election.

Falter? You mean if she doesn’t have enough money? What is enough? And why are you so obsessed with LISTS, Crain’s? The best candidate to be PUBLIC ADVOCATE is probably not another male politician seeking to become borough president or mayor someday, but someone with progressive values and a reputation for being the David to Big Business’s Goliath, ahem, like Letitia James.

Also running for public advocate are Brooklyn State Sen. Daniel Squadron and former congressional candidate Reshma Saujani, who is of Indian-American’s descent but does not have strong labor ties.

So a white guy who should stay in Albany and a lady with big ties to big business, both with big money fundraising operations, are waiting in the wings.

So, Crain’s, is this really how you treat a lady?

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