New York City Mayor
For the first time in more than 50 years, Citizens Union, by a unanimous vote of its governing board, declined to support any of the candidates running for Mayor. Citizens Union noted a number of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s accomplishments during his term but expressed a particular concern that the Mayor’s conduct has raised many troubling ethical issues. Citizens Union expressed the hope that in the future whoever is elected mayor will address the perception of a “pay-to-play” culture at City Hall and support ethics reform legislation for the benefit of all New Yorkers.
Besides the incumbent, the only other major party candidate, Nicole Malliotakis, is earnest, has a promising future, but would benefit from more experience in order to run a government of the size and complexity of New York City. The other candidates evaluated, Sal Albanese and Michael Tolkin, did not demonstrate the range of leadership skills or public support to receive endorsement consideration.
Letitia James (D)
Occupation: New York City Public Advocate
Education: CUNY Lehman College, B.A.; Howard University School of Law, J.D.
Questionnaire | Website
Letitia James has served as the Public Advocate of New York City since 2014, the first woman of color to hold citywide office. She had served in the Council since 2003, where
she chaired the Sanitation and the Economic Development Committees. James began her career as a public defender for The Legal Aid Society and went on to be the Assistant
Attorney General in charge of the Brooklyn Regional Office. As Public Advocate, James has had multiple accomplishments. She has litigated to address issues on a wide range
of topics, such as sexual assault, housing rights, police reform and education policies, and advocates for an increase in the scope and powers of the Public Advocate’s litigation
capabilities to approach and resolve issues. In her role as Public Advocate, James has published various policy reports, which detail specific issues relating to New Yorkers’ daily
lives, from the gender wage gap and education to affordable housing and criminal justice reform. James publishes the Worst Landlords List, which has been integral to her success helping New York City tenants advocate for their housing rights. In addition to her litigation and advocacy work, James has proposed legislation passed by the Council, including the Equal Pay Legislation that banned employers from requesting information about wage and salary history. In her second term James would like to improve the way the city deals with FOIL requests, believing that more FOIL officers are needed in each agency to ensure timely responses. James believes the Public Advocate should have an appointment to the Panel for Educational Policy, and stands for greater parental voice in the schools. In addition to the power to litigate, which she has been exercising, James believes that to remain a strong independent arm of city government the Public Advocate should have a budget independent of the Mayor and Council, and subpoena power. Although supportive of many Citizens Union positions, she opposes holding a constitutional convention. James has an excellent command of the issues facing the city and has used the office of Public Advocate effectively to advocate for change. Citizens Union believes she merits reelection.
Scott Stringer (D)
Occupation: New York City Comptroller
Education: John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Scott Stringer is the current New York City Comptroller and has been a member of the New York political landscape for decades. He first held office as a State Assembly Member from 1993 to 2005, and then was Borough President of Manhattan from 2006 to 2013. In 2013, he was elected to the position of New York City Comptroller and is now seeking re-election. His current priorities include addressing issues of affordability, homelessness, NYCHA housing conditions, and making the Department of Education more transparent. He urges the development of new affordable housing options by leveraging his audit and investigation power to find solutions to creating new units and maintaining the existing stock. Other priorities include putting the MTA’s finances on a more sustainable footing and protecting the environment. Lastly, Stringer promises to build an inclusive economy by increasing Women- and Minority-owned Business Enterprise (WMBE) procurement. Stringer aligns with Citizens Union on most issues, except that he opposes holding a constitutional convention, and opposes eliminating party primaries and establishing a nonpartisan election system. Citizens Union believes Stringer has been an effective Comptroller, providing sound stewardship of the city’s finances and, notably, the city’s pension funds, where he has sought to achieve more coordination among the various funds that have been set up by law. He also has counter-balanced the Mayor on a number of issues, an appropriate role for the city’s financial watchdog. Stringer warrants another term as Comptroller; neither of his opponents can match his command of the issues or experience in handling this important position.
Bronx City Council
Ritchie Torres (D) – City Council District 15
Occupation: New York City Council Member, District 15
Education: High School
Ritchie Torres was elected to the New York City Council to represent District 15 in 2013
as the youngest member of the Council, and is currently seeking reelection. He is the
Chair of the Committee on Public Housing and a likely candidate for speaker. Noting his
own history as a NYCHA resident, Torres emphasized the importance of improving public
housing stock and seeking more accountability from landlords. He also wants to increase
diversity in public schools by enacting controlled choice; provide addiction treatment
services; and increase funding to services for immigrant and LGBTQ communities. Torres
is supportive of much of Citizens Union’s reform agenda. He is a strong supporter of
greater police accountability, and has sponsored legislation in the area during his first term.
Torres supports Citizens Union’s voting and elections, campaign finance and budget reform
agenda. He is not in favor, however, of holding a constitutional convention. Citizens Union
endorses Council Member Torres because of his legislative aptitude, especially on matters
related to housing and police accountability, and his sensitivity to the issues facing his
Justin Brannan (D) – Council District 43
Occupation: Full-time Candidate
Education: Fordham University and College of Staten Island, B.A.
Justin Brannan is currently a full-time candidate. He previously served as Chief of Staff for Council Member Vincent Gentile and is the founder of Bay Ridge Cares, a nonprofit
organization that addresses quality of life issues in Bay Ridge. Brannan’s top priorities in the district are to improve public transportation options, address overcrowding in
classrooms, support small businesses, increase funding for senior services, and increase community-police interaction. He supports almost all of Citizens Union’s reform priorities
and is especially supportive of Council rules reforms to make the process of policymaking more fair, efficient, and external to the political dynamics of the Council. Brannan
splits notably with Citizens Union’s agenda on the subject of holding a constitutional convention, which he opposes. Citizens Union endorses Brannan because, in addition to
his knowledge of the issues facing his district, he is the candidate most versed in reform issues and presents as the candidate with the greatest ability to successfully negotiate the
dynamics of the Council.
No Endorsement – Council District 44
Rebecca Harary (R) – Council District 4
Occupation: Full-time candidate
Education: The Fashion Institute of Technology, B.A.; Columbia University, M.A.
Rebecca Harary is a cofounder and board member of the Propel Network, a women’s career support organization, and a founder of a number of other community and educational nonprofits. In 2016, she ran for a seat in the New York State Assembly (District 72) but lost to incumbent Dan Quart in the General Election. Harary’s priorities
include easing rent burdens on seniors, middle class residents, and small businesses (largely through raising the commercial rent tax ceiling and gradually eliminating it); making subway stations ADA compliant and improving public transportation for the growing senior population; and addressing homelessness with vocational training. She is also concerned with managing overcrowded pre-K classrooms, improving pedestrian safety and deploying more police officers in her district. Harary expressed support for many reform issues, including implementing new restrictions on lobbyist activity, introducing nonpartisan top-two election system and, most notably, holding a constitutional convention. However, she opposes a few reform issues important to Citizens Union. She wants to decrease campaign public funding (although supports lowering contribution limits), objects to enhancing certain powers of the CCRB, and opposes requiring the NYPD to dis-aggregate use-of-force reporting by race. Citizens Union believes Harary would be an energetic, committed representative who would add a fresh perspective to the Council.