Letitia James wins Democratic public advocate runoff - New York News

Letitia James wins Democratic public advocate runoff

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City Councilwoman Letitia James and state Sen. Daniel Squadron City Councilwoman Letitia James and state Sen. Daniel Squadron

JONATHAN LEMIRE | AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Councilwoman Letitia James won the Democratic public advocate runoff on Tuesday, becoming the party's nominee and all but assuring she will become the city's elected watchdog.

James defeated state Sen. Daniel Squadron in incomplete and unofficial returns and faces a general election next month without a Republican opponent.

James and Squadron were the top two finishers in the Sept. 10 primary, but neither eclipsed the 40 percent threshold that would have avoided the costly runoff. The winners of the higher-profile mayoral and comptroller primary contests stayed above that mark, meaning the race to fill the little-understood public advocate position was the only one on the ballot.

The public advocate position has little real power and an annual budget of just $2.1 million, a small fraction of the $13 million it cost the city to hold the runoff, which was required by law.

But the post has become a springboard to higher office. The current public advocate, Bill de Blasio, is the Democratic nominee for mayor. He did not endorse anyone in the runoff.

De Blasio was one of many public officials who called for reforms to the costly runoff system.

James and Squadron have similar liberal positions on most issues, from the need for school reform to the creation of more affordable housing.

If elected in November, James would rank second only to the mayor, according to the city charter, and would be in a position to badger the administration.

James, a three-term councilwoman from Brooklyn, had the support of most unions, including the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which endorsed her on City Hall's steps Monday afternoon. James, who is black, argued for the need to have a person of color and a woman in a citywide office, since Squadron and the leading candidates for mayor and comptroller are white men.

Squadron, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, had utilized a larger campaign account and had the backing of the city's major newspaper editorial boards and many high-profile politicians, including his former boss U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

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