A long time ago and a City Charter away, we had something called a City Council President in New York. Second in line to the mayor, the President presided over the City Council and had a vote on the city’s now-defunct powerful Board of Estimate.

With a new charter and the Board of Estimate dissolved, the City Council President was replaced by the city’s Public Advocate in 1994. An ombudsperson of sorts, the Public Advocate still presides over the Council and can introduce legislation while also remaining second-in-line to succession to the mayor. But the job has largely been what the office-holder has made of it. Its occupant has usually turned it into a professional bully pulpit and the current Public Advocate, Tish James, is no exception. It’s an open secret that like two of her predecessors – Mark Green and Bill de Blasio – she’s already eyeing the mayoralty four years from now.

But there’s a feisty Republican opponent in her path who’s vowing not to be a speed bump, J.C. Polanco. A former Board of Elections official and a Republican consultant who’s a frequent NY1 guest, Polanco will likely give James a run for her money tonight in a debate that we’re bringing to you live at 7 p.m. tonight and then replaying at 10 p.m. While James can point to legislation she’s pushed through in the City Council and issues that she’s championed, Polanco can make an argument that it’s a good thing for the Public Advocate to be in a different party than the mayor – assuming that Bill de Blasio gets re-elected next month.

While the race has been under-the-radar, both James and Polanco are highly knowledgeable about the issues confronting the city and it should be a great forum with NY1’s Errol Louis and WNYC’s Brian Lehrer at the debate’s helm. One thing I can guarantee: the audience will be a little quieter with Bo Dietl out of the picture.


Bob Hardt