The election of Letitia “Tish” James as the next attorney general of New York State has set up a political game of dominoes, with dozens eyeing a run for her current position—public advocate of New York City—when she vacates the office come January. Once James resigns the seat and is sworn in as the next AG, Mayor Bill de Blasio will have three days to announce the date of a special election to fill the vacancy—likely to occur in mid-February.
Candidates will then have 12 days to gather signatures to get on the ballot. Since the process to get on the ballot is so easy, it is expected that at least a dozen names will make the final ballot. A couple of them could be Queens politicians. As reported by Queens Tribune editor-at-large Gerson Borrero in his weekly online “Bochinche” column, Queens Assemblywoman Ari Espinal is one person eyeing the office. The incumbent lawmaker recently lost a primary to Catalina Cruz.
While Espinal has not announced her candidacy, many others have. Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, who recently ran for lt. governor and narrowly lost to Kathy Hochul, is one of the leading contenders. Several of his City Council colleagues are also eyeing the seat, including Rafael Espinal (cousin of Ari Espinal), Ydanis Rodríguez and Robert Cornegy. Assembly members Michael Blake and Danny O’Donnell have also launched a bid.
On Monday, the New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN) held a candidates forum at which invited prospective candidates spoke. Attendees were City Council members Espinal, Cornegy, Williams and Rodríguez; Assembly members Blake and O’Donnell; Columbia University professor David Eisenbach; journalist Nomiki Konst; activist Theo Chino; Democratic state committeeman Benjamin Yee; and Dawn Smalls, a former member of the Obama administration and a Clinton 2016 campaign political director who now works at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP.
Adding another wrinkle to the race is a recent bill put forth by a few City Council members calling for the elimination of the office. The bill is being pushed by three Bronx lawmakers: Ruben Díaz Sr., Mark Gjonaj and Ritchie Torres.