“It was very surreal,” Brooklyn City Councilwoman Letitia James said, reflecting on the moment her predecessor was assassinated. “When I got the news that he had been shot, I said, ‘I think I know who did it.’”
Othniel Askew wanted to run against Councilman James Davis. Instead, on a City Hall balcony in July of 2003, he drew a silver .40-caliber pistol and started shooting–killing Mr. Davis and setting events in motion that would place Ms. James in public office.
“The person who assassinated him visited me the night before,” Ms. James recalled, speaking with Politicker recently at a Manhattan campaign office.
Last night, the labor-backed Working Families Party announced their support in a host of races across the city, beginning with Tish James for public advocate and working their way down to open-seat council campaigns.
The endorsement for Ms. James, a Brooklyn councilwoman, is particularly notable because, with a less sizable campaign war chest than her top rivals, Ms. James’ strategy relies on unifying union forces. There are two other citywide races this year, but without a strong labor consensus for mayor and a virtually uncontested race for comptroller, the public advocate competition is relatively unique.
A crowded field of candidates are vying to replace Councilwoman Tish James, each hoping to leverage every electoral advantage for her Fort Greene-based seat. Accordingly, one contender, Laurie Cumbo, the former head of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, rolled out the support of the small-but-powerful Hotel Trades Council earlier today.
“We are thrilled to announce our support for Laurie Cumbo today,” Josh Gold, the union’s political director, said in a statement.
Yesterday, vandals burned close to a dozen mezuzahs–religious artifacts affixed to doors–in front of Jewish homes in Williamsburg, drawing widespread outrage both in the local community and among candidates for higher office. This morning, several such pols were among the officials at a press conference blasting the perpetrators.
“Today all of us are Jewish and all of us celebrate this wonderful community,” Councilwoman Tish James, a candidate for public advocate, proclaimed. “But I’ve come here today to say that the individual or individuals that is responsible for this most heinous crime will be prosecuted … You will be caught and it is in your best interest to turn yourself in. In fact, I urge you to turn yourself in before anyone in this community gets their hand on you. It’s in your best interest.”
Councilwoman Tish James, who’s currently running for public advocate, will be doing some cable news punditry this weekend. Tomorrow morning, Ms. James will appear on MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes to discuss her agenda and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban.
The Race is On
“This is not a Pollyanna conversation. With all due respect, Reshma, you’re wrong.”
It was one of the few sparks in an otherwise genial forum for the five Public Advocate candidates, and it came, not so surprisingly, from Cathy Guerriero. Ms. Guerriero, along with Brooklyn and Manhattan State Sen. Dan Squadron, Brooklyn Councilwoman Tish James, former Deputy Public Advocate Reshma Saujani and education advocate Noah Gotbaum, spoke aggressively at the first forum of the year in the wide open Public Advocate race.
Is the media to blame for NYCHA’s problems? Or, more specifically, the Daily News? That was certainly the impression given by a handful of pols on the steps of City Hall this afternoon.
Led by Rosie Mendez, chair of the City Council’s housing committee, the group applauded the New York City Housing Authority’s recent improvements over the past months and years. While it was widely acknowledged that the state of public housing in the city was far from perfect, the situation was indeed improving in the view of those huddled under the portico of City Hall as it drizzled on the steps just beyond.
“NYCHA’s problems are profound,” Queens Councilman LeRoy Comrie said. “They cannot be explained away in a newspaper article that simply says they are not doing their job.”
Reshma Saujani dispelled any speculation about her intentions next year with an email to supporters asking them to be “early adopters” of her 2013 campaign for public advocate.
“You know me. I am a disrupter, a political entrepreneur, someone who not only believes in public-private partnerships but actually knows how to build them,” she writes. ”We know that the future of government is action-orientated leadership. People who simply get things done. New voices and new ideas. Leaders who will open up the doors far and wide, so that everyone can be an advocate.”
Ms. Saujani first came to prominence during her 2010 campaign for Congress against Carolyn Maloney– a race she ended up losing by 60 points despite the support of an number of big-ticket donors. She went on to work in the office of the man she hopes to replace–Bill de Blasio, serving as a deputy public advocate of New York City and the executive director of the Fund for Public Advocacy.
Councilwoman Tish James looks to be firmly moving her campaign for the Public Advocate’s office forward. A reader forwarded a fundraising invitation directly stating her intentions to run for the seat in 2013.
“As I prepare to campaign for the anticipated vacancy in the Public Advocate’s Office, I am excited by the prospect of expanding my service to the people of our great City — but I need your help,” the letter reads.
Ms. James goes out to tout her record and suggest readers visit her new website, www.LetitiaJames2013.com. The website further extols her accomplishments in areas stretching from cultural arts to budgetary matters.
Over the weekend, Crain’s reported Reshma Saujani is leaving her position as deputy advocate in the Office of New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in order to potentially run for Mr. de Blasio’s job herself in 2013. Mr. de Blasio is widely expected to run for mayor, which would leave his position vacant for aspiring politicians.
Confirming Crain’s report, a source familiar with the situation told The Politicker Ms. Saujani is departing Mr. de Blasio’s office on March 16th and is indeed expected to open a committee that would allow her to campaign for the position. However, the source noted a citywide campaign would be just one of multiple options she is considering for her next career move.