Current Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is running for mayor and will be vacating his seat.
While all of those in the race attempted to provide a unique viewpoint and separate themselves from the pack, each candidate focused on education reform, job growth, government transparency and elimination of fraud.
Noah Gotbaum a former staffer of Senator Edward Kennedy, referred to himself as “the education advocate.” He spoke about his role in co-founding New York Cares and his dedication to public schools.
One thing that Gotbaum has working against him may be his own stepmother, former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum. She is supporting another candidate in the race, State Senator Daniel Squadron, who so far has raised the most campaign funds.
Squadron, like all of the candidates, made it clear that education would be a top property if he were to win. “There’s a lot we have to do,” he said.
He criticized the Department of Education (DOE) for not creating a way to deal with overcrowding issues that are problematic city-wide. Squadron then discussed a bill he is carrying that would change the process by which DOE plans for growth in schools.
Squadron isn't the only candidate currently holding public office in the race, but he was the only one at the forum for a while. Councilwoman Letitia James arrived roughly an hour late explaining she was busy standing with Cablevision workers who were allegedly fired for trying to start a union.
At the forum James focused on affordable housing, noting her time spent fighting Forest City Ratner over the issue as part of the construction of the Barclays Center. The company is currently building a residential structure next to the arena, which James said would include a significant amount of affordable housing.
Candidate Cathy Guerriero is a newcomer on the political scene. She has served as director of strategic planning and associate director for the New York City Archdiocese and currently teaches.
Guerriero was definitely the most outspoken candidate at the forum. “You better believe it’s personal,” she said, referencing her daughter's future. “It’s intimate.” She said that the job and responsibilities of the public advocate has to be “deconstructed and reconstructed.”
She continued her fiery tone when she called out Reshma Saujani on education reform. “This is not a Pollyanna conversation,” she said. “With all do respect Reshma, you’re wrong.”
Saujani is a former aid to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and recently challenged Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for her seat. She relied heavily on her experience with de Blasio at the forum, discussing the need for technology to merge with the private sector and help small business.
One project she proudly discussed was teaching young women to be technologically savvy, enough so that one 15-year-old girl was able to create a website for a local business in her neighborhood.
Overall, all candidates spoke about how the role of the public advocate needs to be strengthen and redefined.