After opening a campaign committee last month with the New York City Board of Elections in anticipation of the race, Brooklyn Democratic Council Member Jumaane Williams on Wednesday officially launched his campaign to become New York City’s next public advocate.
“It’s an honor to have so many of my colleagues and progressive grassroots organizations stand by me today, as I officially announce my run for public advocate,” said Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, at a rally on the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan.
“Our city needs a public advocate who can effectively be an activist elected official, fighting for working families across the five boroughs,” added the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “So many of the challenges our city faces are uphill battles, but I’m used to running up hills, and will continue to do that as our city’s next public advocate.”
Williams said last month that he would formally run for public advocate if the position, held by African-American Letitia James, becomes vacant.
Democrat James made history in 2014 by becoming the first woman of color to hold citywide office in New York City.
During the midterm elections, on Nov. 6, James again created history by becoming the first African-American woman to be elected New York state attorney general.
The public advocate, the second highest ranking elected office in the city, after the mayor, serves as a direct link between New Yorkers and their government, and acts as a watchdog over city agencies.
The public advocate also investigates complaints about city services and makes proposals to address any shortcomings or failures of those services.
Williams, a progressive Democrat, will contest a special election to be set shortly by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The activist politician surprisingly came relatively close to beating the incumbent Kathy Hochul for lieutenant governor of New York state in the Democratic Primary elections in early September. The lieutenant governor is the second highest position in New York State.
Williams had received nearly 650,000 votes to become lieutenant governor of New York, with more than 400,000 votes from individuals throughout the five boroughs in New York City.
On Wednesday, several New York city and state elected officials, political organizations and community leaders joined Williams during the rally on the steps of City Hall.
During the rally, Williams announced that he has been endorsed by many political groups and labor unions, including the New York Working Families Party (WPP), the New York Progressive Action Network, Mason Tenders’ District Council Local 79, New York State Laborers Organizing Fund, 100 Black Construction Workers and the Brooklyn-based Shirley Chisholm Democratic Club.
He was also endorsed by over a dozen elected officials, including Kings (Brooklyn) County Democratic Chairman Frank Seddio, Guyanese-born New York State Democratic Senator Roxanne Persaud and Haitian-American New York State Democratic Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte.
“For the past 10 years, as a council member, Jumaane Williams has served as an advocate for the public,” said Bill Lipton, WPP executive director, at Wednesday’s rally. “Now, it’s time we officially make him our city’s public advocate.
“He stands fearlessly with working families, fighting to make our city more affordable, equitable and just for all New Yorkers,” he added. “I cannot imagine a better person to be our next public advocate than Jumaane.”
Seddio said he was also “proud to throw” his support “behind a fellow Brooklynite, who will continue fighting for our borough and New Yorkers across the city.”
Persaud described Williams as “the real deal,” adding: “He’s a part of the progressive blue wave that is helping to advance some of the most pressing issues facing our communities.”