Melissa Mark-Viverito

NYC public advocate race the talk of Somos

Jumaane Williams, Michael Blake and Melissa Mark-Viverito are hot topics at the Puerto Rico conference.

Assemblyman Michael Blake speaks with Wayne K. Williams at the Puerto Rico conference.

Assemblyman Michael Blake speaks with Wayne K. Williams at the Puerto Rico conference. Jeff Coltin

Walking around the Puerto Rico Convention Center Friday afternoon, one could hear the same names peppered into conversations, both English and Spanish: “Melissa.” “Blake.” “Jumaane.”

The people with those names – former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assemblyman Michael Blake and New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams – are three of the top candidates for New York City public advocate, and chatting about who has the best shot has become the most popular parlor game of the annual Somos conference.

Experienced attendees of the annual post-election political event in Puerto Rico say each year has a theme. Two years ago, it was all about President Donald Trump. In 2013, it was all about the race for New York City Council speaker (which Mark-Viverito, who is from Puerto Rico, went on to win). This year, it’s all about who will succeed New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, now that she has been elected as state attorney general.

Once James takes office on Jan. 1, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to call the first citywide special election in modern history, likely for late February. And though some lawmakers have been considering a bid since the moment James announced her candidacy for attorney general in May, the run-up to the race is much quicker than a typical election cycle, putting pressure on potential candidates to jump in early and make a splash.

The biggest splash so far was by Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, who announced his candidacy more than two weeks ago and on Thursday rolled out endorsements from a dozen elected officials, including state Sens. Kevin Parker and James Sanders and New York City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who had been rumored to be considering a run himself. Brooklyn Democratic leader Frank Seddio also gave Williams his support at a closed-door dinner Thursday night in San Juan, a number of Brooklyn political sources also confirmed to City & State. Seddio’s support could discourage other Brooklynites who are considering campaigning for the position, like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Council members Rafael Espinal and Robert Cornegy, and Assembly members Jo Anne Simon and Latrice Walker. Support from a county organization that can drive turnout to the polls could be particularly important in a mid-winter special election that’s unlikely to draw much enthusiasm from those outside the political world.

Williams, not long off his losing primary campaign against Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, is a hot topic in San Juan, but he’s not here himself, since he has a fear of flying. Instead, his campaign chair, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, is doing the rounds as his surrogate.

Williams’ absence gave Assemblyman Michael Blake a chance to second guess his rival in an interview with City & State at the convention center on Friday. “You can’t ignore the fact that you have a who’s who here for two-plus days,” he said of the Somos conference. “Being here sends a message if you’re serious or not.”

Accompanied by Bill Hyers, the political consultant who helped orchestrate de Blasio’s come-from-behind mayoral campaign in 2013, Blake laid out his path to victory, sometimes yelling to be heard over the live salsa band blaring upstairs. He’s an unequivocally pro-choice black man – while Williams, who now supports a women’s right to an abortion, was far less clear in past statements, which proved to be a soft spot for opponents to target in the lieutenant governor’s race. Blake also said he’s a strong advocate for New York City Housing Authority tenants and comes from a union household, which could help him as he makes his case to labor unions.

But Blake’s strongest asset may be money. Blake is a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, with a reputation as a good fundraiser. He wouldn’t confirm how much money he has raised so far, but projected confidence. “I think when the filing comes out, people will see that we’re serious,” he said.

Manhattan City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez was also gathering support at Somos, though he hasn’t yet officially entered the race. He worked the room at Thursday night’s welcome party at the Museo del Arte de Puerto Rico, and stayed on past midnight at the lobby bar at the El San Juan Hotel. A Rodriguez campaign would likely focus on his story as a Dominican immigrant who would represent all immigrants in the city, though he may have a tougher time earning Latino support if Mark-Viverito enters the race. Rodriguez also suggested he could be seen as more development-friendly than Williams, but a real estate source said neither were likely to get much financial help from the deep-pocketed industry, which would prefer somebody like Blake or former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Mark-Viverito was also making the rounds on Thursday, though. The Puerto Rico native believes she has citywide name recognition from her four years as speaker and has been making calls and gunning hard to win support from labor unions who like her progressive politics and could turn out voters for the special election. Mark-Viverito is a former darling of the Working Families Party, but seems unlikely to get their support in this race against Williams, who the party backed for lieutenant governor. Still, Mark-Viverito’s actions in Puerto Rico have left observers with no doubt that she’s running. “She smiled at me yesterday,” a political player told City & State. “She never smiles at me.”

Other potential candidates were nowhere to be seen. Quinn, who is considering a run, told City & State she would have liked to be in Puerto Rico, but was attending a wedding upstate. City & State didn’t see other declared candidates, like Manhattan Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell or Columbia professor David Eisenbach.

Another declared candidate, progressive activist Nomiki Konst, told City & State she was making a statement by skipping out on Somos. “If you actually want to solve the problems of Puerto Rico, it’s not going to be solved by a press junket sponsored by multinational corporations, some of which are responsible for the financial crisis on the island,” she said in a phone interview. The Somos conference has dozens of sponsors, from drug companies like Merck and Pfizer, tech companies like Uber and Lyft, and unions like the New York State United Teachers.

For now, James remains public advocate, and was on hand in San Juan as a tangible reminder to her potential predecessors of how the post can be a springboard to higher office. De Blasio, for example, went from public advocate to mayor. James will soon be attorney general.

But first, James told a room full of conference attendees attending a panel on affordable housing, she’ll be coming out soon with her annual ranking of the New York City landlords with the most housing code violations. “My last worst landlords list – before I lock them up!” she said, as the room burst out in laughter.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include comments from Konst and a real estate source.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.