New York City

Public advocate candidate Williams takes to the airwaves

The Brooklyn councilman is out with his first TV ad of the special election.

Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

The special election for New York City public advocate, thus far conducted mostly at nightly forums in synagogues and college lecture halls, is about to hit the mainstream: TV screens. Public advocate candidate Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn city councilman, is airing a television ad less than a month out from the Feb. 26 citywide election.

Williams campaign spokesman William Gerlich said the 30-second spot would be airing on local and national outlets in the New York City area starting Wednesday morning, and the campaign hopes to run this ad and others up to the day of the election.

Williams, a Democrat, is the first of the 17 public advocate candidates to turn to television. He told City & State he wanted to shift the tactics from his 2018 campaign for lieutenant governor, in which he lost to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul 48 percent to 42 percent.

“If we had the ability to go on the air all across the state or all across the city for any length of time, I believe it would have made up some of those percentage points,” he said. “This time, the plan is to go up on air early all across the city.”

Williams puts his Tourette Syndrome front and center in the ad, saying in a voiceover that “many dismissed me and weren’t sure where I’d end up” after being diagnosed with the neurological condition as a kid.

As the ad shows a casually-dressed Williams walking at night time toward a group of supporters waving signs, he also highlights his record “taking on stop and frisk” and “fighting for truly affordable housing.” Williams was a lead sponsor of the Community Safety Act, a 2013 challenging the NYPD’s use of so-called stop and frisk tactics, and was arrested outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in 2015 while protesting for stronger rent regulations.

Gerlich said the ad was filmed outside the Ingersoll Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development in Downtown Brooklyn. The supporters seen in the ad are all volunteers, some of them residents of Ingersoll.

Williams may need more campaign donations if he’s going to launch an all-out ad blitz. As of the latest campaign finance filing on Jan. 21, Williams was in fourth place in private fundraising among the candidates, with just under $200,000. But Williams and the other candidates’ funds will soon multiply thanks to public matching funds, likely putting nearly $1 million in Williams’ account.