As the five Democratic candidates prepare for a live debate Thursday night that will air on NY1, several other people who previously held the office say the position makes a difference for city residents. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Although the office of Public Advocate is just a fraction the size of the city comptroller's, current Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, now running for mayor, insists it still serves an important function.
"Public advocate is one of the parts of city government that really tries to make sure government is serving people," said de Blasio. "It's really providing services at grass roots. Also, the city's ombudsman, the place that any New Yorker can turn when they're not getting the services they deserve."
There are five major candidates vying for the nomination in next month's Democratic primary: State Senator Daniel Squadron, City Councilwoman Letitia James, former Deputy Public Advocate Reshma Saujani, college professor Cathy Guerriero and Sidique Wai, who works for the police department.
As of August 5, Squadron had the most campaign cash on hand with $1.6 million. Saujani had $1.3 million, James had just less than $1 million, Guerriero had about $30,000, but liabilities totaling much more, and Wai raised less than $1,000.
The last poll in the current public advocate's race dates back to June. James and Guerriero were statistically tied for first. But some have questioned the methodology of that poll, and a lot has changed in the race since then.
"Because the four major candidates who are running are comparably unknown, yet all have very good qualities to run, no poll has seriously measured and reflected the nature of the race," said former Public Advocate Mark Green.
Mark Green was the city's first public advocate. He says newspaper endorsements will make a huge difference in the race.
"When you are dealing with a down ticket race with unknown candidates, that's where a New York Times endorsement could make 10 or 15-point margin difference," Green said.
Betsy Gotbaum succeeded Green.
"Mark Green had a very different kind of way of approaching it, and we needed Mark at that time because he was a foil to Rudy Giuliani, and he was a very good public advocate," said Gotbaum. "Mine was a little more different because Michael Bloomberg wasn't Rudy Giuliani."
Both Green and Gotbaum have endorsed Squadron.