Squadron and James Debate, Promise to Challenge Next Mayor

By Kristen Meriwether, Epoch Times
September 24, 2013 11:01 pm Last Updated: October 17, 2013 12:22 pm

NEW YORK—When Democratic voters head to the polls on Oct. 1, there will only be two names appearing on the ballot: Letitia James and Daniel Squadron.  

The pair are the only candidates in a runoff election this year. They are vying for the office of the pubic advocate to replace Bill de Blasio, who is running for mayor.

The runoff will cost tax payers $13 million, despite the public advocate’s office only having a $2 million annual budget. 

On Tuesday, just seven days from the election, the two squared off in the only televised debate of the runoff, hosted by NY1. The debate was fierce at times, with City Councilwoman James taking shots—sometimes personal—at state Sen. Squadron.

The theatre of the debate drew the usual responses of campaign rhetoric, with each touting their respective records and explaining their views. Squadron spent much of the debate claiming James was lying, and James hardly ever looked at Squadron.

In spite of the theatrics, the most interesting point of the debate was brought up in the first question posed by moderator Brian Lehrer, host at WNYC: how will you remain independent of the mayor if it is a candidate you have endorsed? 

The role of the public advocate is to be a watchdog of sorts to the mayor, and that has worked nicely with a Republican mayor and a Democrat public advocate. De Blasio has routinely challenged Mayor Michael Bloomberg on an array of policy issues. 

Both James and Squadron endorsed de Blasio, who is currently polling 41 points ahead of Republican Joe Lhota. James went so far as to call de Blasio the mayor-elect, and said she would have no problem challenging him if needed. Squadron said much of the same, promising to take him on if he disagreed with him. 

After a recent press conference, the issue of gender was brought to the forefront of the race. If elected, James would be the only woman holding citywide elected office (comptroller, mayor, and public advocate), and the first African-American woman to hold the post. Squadron would round out the field of white males in office (assuming Scott Stringer beats long-shot Republican John Burnett, who is African American). 

The possibility of all-white male leadership has shaken the establishment, even so much as to cause a few new names in the City Council speaker’s race—the next highest city-wide office—to pop up. 

But having a trifecta of progressive Democrats leading New York poses a new question: will they be able to keep the checks and balances on each other the way the current elected politicians have? 

James and Squadron danced around the question, but both committed to keeping the mayor honest—whoever it was.