Public Advocate Campaign Roundtable

This year's tight race for Public Advocate included a tough Democratic primary that necessitated a runoff. The result was the historic election of a female African American to city-wide office for the first time in New York’s history. Notwithstanding the competition and high stakes, key campaign strategists from the major campaigns lamented their difficulty attracting press coverage and public attention throughout the race, as voters and press alike were distracted by scandals and surprise candidacies in other city-wide races.

Did attacks on one candidate backfire by mobilizing her supporters? Did newspaper endorsements have the impact the campaigns anticipated? Azi Paybarah from Capital New York moderated the discussion with leaders of the James, Squadron, Guerriero and Saujani campaigns.


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The Center will soon publish a full transcript of the event’s discussion, which will be available in print and online. Check back here for updates.

—List of participants—

Moderator: Azi Paybarah, Capital New York

Panelists by campaign:

Letitia James for Public Advocate 2013

  • Karine Jeanne-Pierre
  • Luis Miranda

Dan Squadron for Public Advocate

  • Amy Spitalnick
  • Alex Navarro-McKay

Cathy Guerriero

  • Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein

Reshma for New York

  • Michael Blake
  • Andrew Moesel

—2013 New York City Advocate Campaign: Timeline—

June 26, 2013

Wall Street Journal (WSJ)/NBC4/Marist poll shows that among registered Democrats, James polling at 17%, Guerriero at 16%, Squadron at 8%, and Saujani at 4%.

July 10, 2013 Tish James gets Livery Cab driver’s Union endorsement.

July 12, 2013 Saujani gets endorsement from Congressman Gregory Meeks and Assemblyman William Scarborough.

July 15, 2013 Tish James gets endorsement from Ruben Diaz, Jr.

July 22, 2013 Michael Benjamin endorses Guerriero in City and State.

July 29, 2013 Tish James gets Tenants PAC endorsement.

July 30, 2013 Politicker reports that Squadron has committed to a “high six figure” media buy, with 4 new commercials.

Saujani's campaign attacks Squadron, calling him "Trust Fund Dan," to imply that he has been the beneficiary of money earned by his late father, Howard Squadron. Squadron responds that his family fortune was lost during Madoff scandal.

August 7, 2013 El Diario endorses James, saying, “As Public Advocate, James would also work on issues that are critical to Latino and so many other New Yorkers.”

August 12, 2013 Squadron releases an ad featuring Schumer lauding Squadron’s anti-gun efforts and results. James’ campaign releases a “fact-check” email claiming Squadron has failed to pass “a single piece of gun legislation.” The email is fact-checked by Squadron’s campaign, which cites Squadron’s NY SAFE Act in his support.

August 14, 2013 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 372 endorses Guerriero.

August 15, 2013 Campaign Finance Board allows Public Advocate contenders to fundraise for potential runoff.

August 16, 2013 Marist poll reports James in the lead with 16%, Guerriero with 12%, Squadron with 9%, Saujani with 3%.

August 20, 2013 Tish James endorsed by the Mason Tenders District Council and the Teamsters local 237.

August 21, 2013 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) endorses James.

August 23, 2013 The New York Times (NYT) endorses Squadron.

August 25, 2013 WSJ reports that the Public Advocate debate yielded consistently “deeply populist and liberal” answers, and that all candidates except Squadron promised to support retroactive raises.

August 27, 2013 Citizens Union endorses Squadron, “who had a very specific and reasonable plan for serving and succeeding as Public Advocate.”

Outgoing Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz endorses Squadron.

August 28, 2013 Quinnipiac poll finds that 72% of voters polled can’t name a single Public Advocate candidate, and, furthermore, that 20% of voters think the position should be abolished.

September 10, 2013 - Primary Tish James gets 36% of vote, Squadron 33%, forcing a runoff election. Saujani gets 15%, Guerriero 12.9%, Wai 2.8%.

September 17, 2013 Guerriero endorses Squadron.

Politicker coverage quotes Democratic strategists saying the runoff is “Tish’s race to lose,” and says it will be a test of union backing (James) versus “a better machine” (Squadron); will largely depend on each candidates’ GOTV success.

September 18, 2013 Saujani endorses James.

September 24, 2013 Feisty televised runoff debate. James agrees to release her tax statements and criticizes Squadron for being endorsed by Bloomberg, and not endorsing Thompson in 2009. Squadron criticizes James for voting with Bloomberg 98% of the time.

September 26, 2013 SEIU spends $150,000 on radio ads in support of James, $200,000 on mailers, and more on robocalls and stickers.

Squadron flaunts endorsement from 30 Asian civic and community leaders in Chinatown and Queens, including Councilwoman Margaret Chin, an hour before John Liu endorses James in a Chinatown event.

September 30, 2013 NYT reports that NYC will spend about $13 million to hold public advocate race runoff, while the public advocate’s office is budgeted $2.3 million a year.

October 1, 2013 - Runoff James wins 60% of the Democratic primary runoff for public advocate, a victory that makes her all but certain to become the first African-American woman to hold citywide office.

2013 Public Advocate Democratic runoff vote & turnout for Letitia James

October 2, 2013 Citizens Union calls for replacing the current runoff system with an election-day instant runoff, where voters rank their preferences. Instant runoff voting is already used in Minneapolis, Oakland, Calif., and San Francisco, among other cities, in elections for mayor and other local offices.

October 8, 2013 James says that she will decline matching funds for the general election from the CFB, calling them “not necessary.”

November 5, 2013 James wins general election, making her the first African-American woman voted to city-wide office in NYC.

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