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Table of Contents

I. Purpose
II. Candidate Evaluation Principles and Process
III. Our Criteria
IV. Public Advocate Office
V. Questionnaire
VI. Candidates and Endorsement
VII. Voting and Registration Information
VIII. Acknowledgments


On Tuesday, February 26th, New Yorkers will vote in the Special Election for New York City Public Advocate. To help voters prepare for the upcoming election, we bring you our 2019 Special Election Voters Directory. The Voters Directory provides a description of each candidate evaluated by Citizens Union’s Local Candidates Committee, their responses to Citizens Union’s good government questionnaire, and information about the rigorous evaluation process and assessments of candidates.

New York City Special Elections are nonpartisan, meaning you do not need to be registered with a political party to cast a ballot. For more information about the Special Election, visit the NYC Board of Elections website at or call (866) VOTE-NYC.


In this election cycle, Citizens Union has evaluated 11 out of 17 candidates running to fill the Public Advocate’s Office after the seat was vacated by Letitia James when she became the state Attorney General in January. Interview teams made up of Local Candidates Committee members assess the candidates based on their responses to CU’s questionnaire (a pre-requisite for interviews), research, first-hand knowledge of the candidates, and interviews with the candidates, which are approximately 30 minutes each. The interview teams then make advisory recommendations to the full Local Candidates Committee, which deliberates and makes recommendations to the Citizens Union Board, which makes the final decision. An “Endorsed” rating reflects a candidate that Citizens Union deems not only qualified for the office with a viable candidacy, but also committed to an agenda of positive reform. Please note that candidates not endorsed may nevertheless be highly regarded, which is generally reflected in the commentary. Citizens Union issues a “Preferred” rating in primary elections, and an “Endorsed” rating for Special and General Election contests. A “No Endorsement” rating may result when there is insufficient information available, it is believed that the candidates are of equal merit, or if no candidate interviewed by Citizens Union is believed to be effective or capable of representing the district.


The following guidelines are used by the Local Candidates Committee and Citizens Union Board of Directors in the evaluation of candidates:

  • Support for Citizens Union’s reform agenda shall be the primary criteria used in deciding its support for a candidate.
  • Evidence of ability to wage an effective and competitive campaign shall be considered, but shall not be determinative.
  • Ability to advance CU’s goals, if elected, shall be considered, but shall not be determinative. Incumbents will be held accountable for their record of reform in office and shall be judged accordingly on the basis of their demonstrated support for CU’s issues.
  • State, local, or community issues specific to the race’s jurisdiction shall be considered, as will candidates’ ability to grasp these issues and propose thoughtful solutions to represent their constituents’ interests.
  • Evaluation of the candidates and the decision to support a particular candidate shall be made without regard to political party and in a nonpartisan manner.


The Public Advocate essentially serves as a watchdog and as the city’s ombudsman. According to the City Charter, the Public Advocate’s major responsibilities are to:

  • Monitor the operation of the city’s public information and service complaint programs;
  • Review complaints of a recurring and multiborough or citywide nature relating to city services and programs and make proposals to improve the city’s response to such complaints;
  • Receive, and investigate and attempt to resolve, individual complaints concerning city services and administrative actions of city agencies; and
  • Review programs of city agencies, with a focus on the effectiveness of the agencies’ public information and complaint procedures and the responsiveness of city agencies to requests for information.

The Public Advocate may conduct hearings, issue reports and make recommendations with regard to the Public Advocate’s responsibilities. S/he has the authority to appoint members to various city entities, including the City Planning Commission, and also serves on a number of bodies. The Public Advocate also has a seat on all City Council committees and may introduce legislation but may not vote on Council matters.

In the event the mayor is temporarily unable to perform his/her duties the Public Advocate steps in to perform those duties, and if the Mayor leaves office during his/her term the Public Advocate serves as Mayor the next general election.



Citizens Union Questionnaire 2019 – Public Advocate

All returned questionnaires



Below are descriptions of each candidate Citizens Union interviewed. As a preliminary manner, we note that generally the candidates favored stronger authority for the Public Advocate, including subpoena power, an independent budget, and some kind of role or authority over the Department of Investigations or the city’s investigation function. As these views were so frequently expressed, we did not identify those issues in each write-up.

Michael Blake – Citizens Union’s Endorsed Candidate

David Eisenbach

Rafael Espinal

Anthony Herbert

Ron Kim

Nomiki Konst

Melissa Mark-Viverito

Daniel O’Donnell

Dawn Smalls

Eric Ulrich

Jumaane Williams

Unevaluated Candidates




You are eligible to vote in municipal, federal and state elections if you are:

  • 18 years of age (on the date of the election. You can register at 17 if you will be 18 before the election – Send your voter registration card in the year you turn 18 and it will be filed on your 18th birthday);
  • United States citizen; AND
  • Registered to vote 25 days before the election.


New York City Special Elections are nonpartisan, meaning you do not need to be registered with a political party to cast a ballot.




The Special Election will be held on Tuesday, February 26th. Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. If you have general questions regarding eligibility or the location of your polling place, please call 1-866-VOTE-NYC. You can also locate your polling place online, including handicap entrances, at

Under federal law, if you are disabled and choose to vote in person rather than by absentee ballot, you are entitled to assistance. You can rely on the election employees for help. At the polls, if you are not on the voter registration list, it may be because your registration form was not received in time or was filled out incorrectly. If you believe that you are eligible to vote, you can still vote by requesting an affidavit ballot. After the election, the Board of Elections will check its records and your vote will be counted if you are indeed eligible.



To Research Campaign Contributions

NYC Campaign Finance Board (212) 409-1800

NYS Board of Elections (800) 458-3453

To Research Candidates and Issues

Citizens Union (212) 227-0342

Gotham Gazette (212) 227-0342

NYPIRG (212) 349-6460

League of Women Voters of NYS (518) 465-4162

Project Vote Smart (888) VOTE-SMART

To Research Incumbent Records

New York State Assembly (518) 455-4218

New York City Council



This Voters Directory would not be possible without the hard work of members of the Citizens Union Board, Local Candidates Committee (LCC), staff and interns. Eighteen volunteer LCC members, one intern, and staff formed nonpartisan interview teams and evaluated 11 candidates running in the 2019 Public Advocate Special Election. We thank them for contributing their time, energy, and expertise this winter to interviewing and evaluating candidates. We thank you for your support, and hope you enjoy the latest edition of the Voters Directory.

Citizens Union Board of Directors

Randy Mastro, Chair
Lorna B. Goodman, Vice Chair
Nancy Bowe, Treasurer
Christina R. Davis, Secretary
Cliff Chenfeld
Penelope L. Christophorou
Curtis Cole
Stacey Cumberbatch
Allan H. Dobrin
Gail Erickson
Ester R. Fuchs, Ph.D.
Chris Giglio
Robert M. Kaufman
Shekar Krishnan
Malcolm MacKay
Anthony S. Mattia
Gary P. Naftalis
Tom Osterman
Alan Rothstein
Kenneth Seplow
Peter J.W. Sherwin
Gregory Silbert
Anthony R. Smith
Hector Soto
Jason Stewart
Darryl C. Towns
David W. Wang

Local Candidates Committee

Anthony S. Mattia, Chair
Scott Avidon
David Brauner
Stacey Cumberbatch
Gail Erickson
Richard Gee
Robert Hallman
Bill Herrlich
Mary Hines
Sandra Lespinasse
Matthew Levison
Alan Lubliner
Grace Lyu Volckhausen
Marjorie Madigan
Corinne Marcus
Robert Mascali
Bill Meehan
Martin Tandler


Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director
Rachel Bloom, Director of Public Policy and Programs
Jane Dowd, Public Policy Intern
Dakota Dula, Development and Membership Associate
Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Public Policy and Program Manager
Nelson Mallory, Executive Assistant
Sally McCullough, Office and Finance Director
JaVon Rice, Technical Manager and Web Producer

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