Keep an eye on the people seeking to keep an eye on NYC’s spending and savings.
Updated March 10
Search as diligently as you might, you are unlikely to find a city comptroller costume in your local Halloween outlet or in the dress-up aisle of your kids’ favorite toy store. It’s not the kind of gig children dream of growing up to get, and if your high school had presented a Most Likely to Be a City Comptroller award, you might have had mixed feelings about receiving it.
It is, however, an incredibly important and attractive job. The city comptroller oversees the city’s roughly $90 billion budget, audits city agencies, reviews around 17,000 contracts a year, resolves claims against the city, manages the city’s debt and administers the five pension funds that comprise $225 billion in assets. Comptrollers also increasingly propose policy, and they are second in line after the public advocate to succeed to the mayoralty in an emergency.
The job comes with a $209,050 salary, $108 million office budget and staff of more than 700. Plus, it’s not a bad perch from which to run for mayor. While Abe Beame is the only modern comptroller to actually win the mayoralty (in 1973), most of the rest have tried. Bill Thompson was the Democratic mayoral nominee in 2009 after two terms as comptroller, and incumbent comptroller Scott Stringer is a leading mayoral candidate this year.
Not bad for a post whose very name appears to be a misspelling: According to Merriam-Webster, “comptroller” is a result of 15th Century people mashing together the English word contreroller (meaning “controller”) and the French word compte (or “account”). But really, what’s in a name?
Right now, there are nine people running or considering a run in the June primary:
Brian Benjamin: In his third term as the state senator for northern Manhattan’s 30th district, Benjamin chairs the Budget and Revenue committee and is the Senior Assistant Majority Leader. A Harlem native, he earned degrees from Brown and Harvard, spent three years at Morgan Stanley, launching an affordable-housing development firm, then ran for Senate. In Albany, he has pushed for the divestment of state pension funds from private-prison companies. Campaign website
Michelle Caruso-Cabrera: A CNBC contributor and host, she challenged Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in last year’s Democratic primary, netting 18 percent of the vote. Twitter
Zach Iscol: A former Marine who served in Iraq, Iscol is the founder of a mental-health non-profit called the Headstrong Project and also started Hirepurpose, a service for veterans and military families seeking employment. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell and held the rank of Captain in the corps. He joined the mayor’s race in October but dropped out in January to pursue the comptroller’s seat. Campaign website
Brad Lander: The former head of the Fifth Avenue Committee and Pratt Center for Community Development, Lander was elected to the City Council in 2009 representing Brooklyn’s 39th district. He co-founded the Council’s Progressive Caucus and now serves as its Deputy Leader for Policy. He’s passed laws expanding worker protections, creating an office of NYPD inspector general, establishing a “certificate of no harassment” program for tenants, and more. He has degrees from the University of Chicago, University College London and the Pratt Institute. Campaign website
Corey Johnson: Elected to the City Council to represent Lower Manhattan in 2013 and elected Council speaker in 2017, Johnson announced his candidacy in mid-March. He had previously been in the running for mayor, but dropped out of that race in September. His legislative efforts include bills calling for citywide comprehensive planning, municipal control of city transit and reduced transportation fares for low-income New Yorkers. Campaign website
Terri Liftin: A graduate of Barnard College, NYU and Brooklyn Law School, she serves as the chief compliance officer at a private investment firm. Campaign website.
Kevin Parker: Parker has represented Brooklyn’s 21st district in the state senate since 2003. He’s the majority whip and chairs the Committee on Energy. A graduate of Penn State and the New School, his pre-senate life included work for the state comptroller, the New York State Urban Development Corporation and UBS PaineWebber. Among his bills that became law in the last legislative session were measures dealing with consumer protections, environmental justice and wage inequality. Campaign website
Reshma Patel: She belongs to Manhattan Community Board 6, is president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club and serves as co-chair of the board at Chaya Community Development Corporation. Twitter
Dion Powell: A business consultant who served on the staff of Assemblyman Michael Blake, he ran in last year’s primary to replace Blake, placing last in a field of six with 3.6 percent of the vote. Personal site
David Weprin: Assemblymember Weprin has since 2010 represented Queens’ 24th district, which his father—once the Assembly speaker—and brother both held previously. A graduate of the University of Albany with a law degree from Hofstra, Weprin worked as a state banking regulator and in the private sector before joining the New York City Council in 2002, where he was finance chair. He ran unsuccessfully for city comptroller in 2009, then ran to replace his brother (who’d joined the City Council) in the Assembly. He chairs the Committee of Correction and has passed 23 pieces of legislation over the previous two sessions. Campaign website
Who has left the race?
Chris McNickle: McNickle, who holds a master’s degree and a PhD from the University of Chicago, is the author of a 2017 biography of Mayor Bloomberg and the 1993 book “To Be Mayor of New York.” He has worked at the consulting firm Greenwich Associates and as global head of institutional business for Fidelity Worldwide Investment. Facebook
Here is some of our coverage of the race:
Comptroller Hopeful Kevin Parker Emphasizes Boosting Small Businesses
Brad Lander Explains His Vision for an Activist Comptroller’s Office