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'Fearless' Progressive Jumaane Williams Elected NYC's Public Advocate

The progressive activist and Brooklyn councilman won election Tuesday with a decisive plurality. 

New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams attends the National Anti-Violence Community Press Conference at Irving Plaza on May 26, 2016 in New York City (Photo: Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images). 

Jumaane Williams, a progressive activist, is New York City’s public advocate-elect.

Williams, a city councilman from Brooklyn, won election as advocate with a plurality of votes on Tuesday, defeating 16 other candidates that included progressive journalist and activist Nomiki Konst and Queens councilman Eric Ulrich. Ulrich was the second place finisher, with 19 percent to Williams’s 33 percent.

As advocate, Williams will have control over the office’s $3.5 million budget and the power to hold public hearings. Williams will be the only person of color in the top of city government—Mayor Bill De Blasio, acting public advocate Corey Johnson, and comptroller Scott M. Stringer are white men.

The role of public advocate is seen as a stepping stone on the way to higher state office and the advocate replaces the mayor temporarily if the mayor leaves office early. De Blasio himself made the jump in 2013.

Congratulations for Williams on his win came from across the New York progressive spectrum.

Turnout for the special election was low for the city with only around 400,000 New Yorkers casting ballots in the race.

Williams entered the race with a recently elevated public profile after running unsuccessfully against Kathy Hochul for Lt. Governor in the Democratic primary on September 13, 2018, and had the support of prominent progressives in the city including State Senator Julia Salazar and progressive activist and Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout.

The position was vacated at the end of December by newly elected state Attorney General Letitia James. Acting public advocate Johnson congratulated Williams on Twitter and promised a smooth transition.

Due to the timing of James’s departure and the next election, Williams could have to face off against unknown challengers in a primary for advocate in June and then again in the general election in November.

It’s unclear if there will be much appetite for another free for all race, however, as Williams earned a decisive margin of victory in his plurality win.

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