Republican mayors ruled New York City for 20 of the past 25 years, but their GOP brethren have had a rough time in the race for the city’s number-two post. Mark Green’s 61 percent to 36 percent win over Susan Alter in 1993, the first election for public advocate, looks like a nail-biter compared with what has happened since. Green was re-elected in 1997 with 75 percent of ballots cast. Republicans didn’t bother to run for the post in 2001, 2005 or 2013. Bill de Blasio in 2009 beat the Republican by 560,000 votes. In 2017 Letitia James was re-elected by an even larger margin.
So, City Councilmember Eric Ulrich of Queens—first elected nearly a decade ago in, perhaps not coincidentally, a special election—has more reason to be confident going into the February 26th special election for public advocate than a Republican normally would. That’s because in special elections, traditional party labels do not apply. Ulrich is running as the candidate of the Common Sense party.
Many voters will know little about the true party affiliations or ideologies of the nine (or more—the ballot is still not finished) people running to take over the office vacated on New Year’s Day when James became state attorney general. (Right now, Council Speaker Corey Johnson is serving as interim public advocate. Whoever wins on February 26 will immediately become advocate, but there’ll be another election in November—and perhaps a September primary—to elect the person who’ll fulfill the rest of James’ term.)
Ulrich presents himself as Republican enough to challenge the mayor—since his opponents are all Democrats, Ulrich says, “I don’t know that any of them, quite frankly, are gong to be able to be truly independent of the mayor”—but not so Republican that any voters should think he’s part of President Trump’s wing of the party. Asked if dissing the president is going to cost him votes he needs from Republicans, many of whom do support Trump, Ulrich says if they don’t support him, “I don’t think there’s any one in the race for them to vote for.”
On Wednesday’s Max & Murphy, Ulrich pointed to his work in the Council on veterans’ services and Sandy recovery, and discussed his plan to “decentralize the office” by appointing a deputy public advocate for each borough.
Below, hear Ben Max and my talk with Ulrich, or the full show (where we also spoke with i>Daily News City Hall bureau chief Jillian Jorgensen).