They'll square off on the debate stage on NY1 on Tuesday, October 22, but few New Yorkers know there is a general election coming up to elect the city's Public Advocate — a citywide post meant to keep local government in check, and one that is first in line of succession to the mayor.
"There's just not a lot of enthusiasm when we've just elected the Public Advocate to office," said Joe Borelli, the Republican candidate for Public Advocate and a Councilman for Staten Island.
There has not been much action in the race between the two leading candidates: Borelli and Jumaane Williams, a Democrat who won the Public Advocate seat during a special election in February.
"I know that it's tough, because New York City is a Democratic town," said Republican J.C. Polanco. He would know: he challenged Letitia James's re-election bid for Public Advocate in 2017.
"It's very tough for a Republican to be able to run what many people would call a credible race," Polanco said.
Thanks to New York's arcane election law, Williams must run for re-election next month despite a decisive win in February in a special election, held after James was elected New York attorney general.
"I take absolutely nothing for granted," Williams said. "There is a race happening on November 5. We are planning to win that race."
The differences between the candidates are clear: Borelli is a Trump supporter and regular guest on Fox News. Williams, a darling of the left, has previously supported Bernie Sanders.
Despite that, the two men are friends, an uncommon sight in times of intense political division. They even agree on some things, including legislation that would reduce the number of special elections like this one.
"This is really a waste of taxpayer's money," the incumbent Public Advocate said.
"I'm supporting a bill to actually eliminate this same election in the future," his challenger said.
Williams and Borelli have kept campaigning to a minimum, focusing on areas where they have the most support. The reason? A lack of money. Williams is ahead with $133,008.64 while Borelli has raised only $42,959.40 — a majority of it from Staten Island supporters.
"I can tell you this: Joe Borelli is campaigning, he is campaigning hard, he's having a hard time getting the traction to get the kind of attention that we need in order to talk about what you're saying, where you have the exchange of ideas," Polanco said. "That requires money."
The general election will be held November 5. And this year, for the first time, voters can cast ballots early, starting on October 26 through Sunday, November 3.
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