Williams gains progressive endorsements after Brooklyn Advocate forum

Flatbush Councilman Jumaane Williams pulled ahead in the crowded race to become the city’s next Public Advocate, after snagging two endorsements from self-proclaimed progressive political clubs following a candidates forum in Brooklyn Heights on Tuesday.

Both the New Kings Democrats and the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats declared their support for Williams — whom they previously backed in his unsuccessful bid to unseat incumbent Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul in the September Democratic primary — due to his record of advocating for the city’s most vulnerable, according to a spokeswoman for the New Kings Dems.

“Maybe more than ever, New York City needs a strong and experienced voice who can stand up for Brooklynites and the city at large. Jumaane is that voice — he is pragmatic yet ambitious, with a tested record of standing with marginalized communities fighting for justice,” said Jessica Thurston.

The pol made his case for the city-wide office at the largest Public Advocate forum in the borough thus far, stumping against 15 of his competitors, including Councilman Rafael Espinal (D–Bushwick), Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D–Brownsville), former Democratic Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Assemblyman Ron Kim (D–Queens), as well as several outsider candidates, such as journalist and activist Nomiki Konst and Columbia professor David Eisenbach.

Moderators peppered the candidates with questions about hot-button issues, including the beleaguered public-housing authority, desegregating public schools, and the controversial arrest of Bedford-Stuyvesant mom Jazmine Headley on Dec. 7.

Williams used his time at the mic to condemn Mayor DeBlasio’s three-day delay to respond to the Headley incident, and slam Hizzoner’s track record on police accountability, describing him as worse than both his predecessors.

“This mayor is worse than Giuliani or Bloomberg for calling out police violence,” he said. “This mayor is not the mayor I endorsed in 2013.”

The hosts also asked the contenders for ways to improve the local Democratic Party, whose leaders often spar with its rank-and-file members, the city’s Board of Elections, and the Public Advocate’s office itself — which some city pols want to abolish outright.

The crowded race is slowly thinning out, however, with Councilman Robert Cornegy (D–Bedford-Stuyvesant) formally withdrawing his candidacy last month after previously touting a run, according to a Gotham Gazette report.

And Dems and political outsiders aren’t the only ones clamoring to fill the watchdog role that Letitia “Tish” James will vacate in January to become New York State’s next Attorney General — Republican Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich is also running in the first citywide non-partisan election expected to take place in February, and earned the support of the Kings County’s GOP Party on Tuesday.

James, in one of her final acts in office, on Wednesday released her annual list of the city’s worst landlords — which the city itself sat at the top of, due officials’ abysmal failure to address the needs of some 400,000 public-housing tenants across the five boroughs.

“The Worst Landlords Watchlist has been an invaluable tool to hold bad landlords accountable and improve living conditions for countless New Yorkers,” James said. “But for too long, the most glaring example of this ill treatment has been at the hands of the city itself — and this year, we are finally putting Nycha on notice. New Yorkers deserve better and it is long past time that Nycha clean up its act.”

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Albany is shaking up!

The Democratic Midwood state senator who controversially caucused with the Senate Republicans to give them a majority will not retain a leadership role when True Blues take over the Legislature in January.

The state Senate’s incoming Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D–Westchester) on Dec. 11 named the upper chamber’s new committee chairs ahead of the 2019 legislative session, and handed out the powerful gigs to all of her Kings County colleagues — except for state Sen. Simcha Felder, who lost his chairmanship of the Cities Committee, and was the only Brooklyn Democrat Stewart-Cousins did not appoint to lead a committee, Bklyner reported.

State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Coney Island), who also caucused across the aisle as part of the controversial and now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, received a similar snub, getting bumped from her position as vice chair of the influential Finance Committee for a new role as chairwoman of the Internet and Technology Subcomittee.

Several Brooklyn newcomers to the upper house, however, received chair positions, including Crown Heights state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, who will head the Election Committee, Bay Ridge state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, who will take over his Republican predecessor’s position chairing the Civil Services Committee, and Bushwick state Sen. Julia Salazar, who will chair the Women’s Health Subcommittee.

And Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) on Tuesday announced the new leadership roles in his chamber, where Democrats will return retaining the majority they held last session.

Most of the positions remained unchanged, but Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D–Clinton Hill) lost his gig as vice chairman of the Majority Steering committee, and will instead chair the Skills Development and Career Education commission.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.