Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ was blasted by his Republican challenger on Tuesday night for mulling a run for governor while seeking reelection for his current post.
Longshot GOP contender Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil claimed that the progressive politician will be “distracted” from his day job if he launches a bid to oust Gov. Kathy Hochul next year.
During the sole public advocate debate ahead of the Nov. 2 general election, Nampiaparampil, a pain medicine specialist and medical analyst, claimed the public advocate needs to dedicate their full attention to issues in the five boroughs.
“New Yorkers deserve someone who is focused on crime, the economy, the issues that are specific to New York City,” she said during the one-hour matchup, which aired on NY1 Tuesday evening. “If you’re running for governor, there’s also the fact that you would be distracted campaigning for governor.”
Later in the debate, after Williams, a Democrat, mentioned a recent trip to upstate New York, Nampiaparampil said, “It sounds like you’re campaigning for governor.”
Williams, a former councilman representing parts of Brooklyn, asserted that he has been candid with New Yorkers about his gubernatorial ambitions.
“The calendar is something we can’t do anything about, and so I’m caught between having to make decisions at the same time. I think it would be a dereliction of duty not to say I’m even going to explore a position that actually has more tools than I have now to do things I’m actually advocating for,” he said.
“What was most important to me was honesty and integrity, and so I wanted the voters to understand that this is something I’m actually very seriously considering, so they can think about that when they go in the booth.”
He added, “But I want to be clear: I’m running for reelection for public advocate.”
Williams is a shoo-in to be reelected next month, given Democrats’ large voter registration advantage in the five boroughs and Nampiaparampil’s relative obscurity compared to the longtime Big Apple politician. The public advocate serves as an ombudsman who can introduce legislation in the City Council and appoint members of certain city bodies, but holds little power.
Williams — who in 2018 ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary against Hochul when she served as the lieutenant governor — formed an exploratory committee late last month in anticipation of a possible attempt to win the June gubernatorial contest, The Post reported. The left-winger has been reaching out to donors and political players to tell them he is considering a bid, sources previously said.
During a subsequent series of TV appearances on Sept. 29, Williams declared that he would campaign on attempting to transform the “atmosphere” in Albany.
“There is a culture there that is steeped in a lot of old ways of doing things, that is hard to renew, unless you really shake it up in a very significant way,” Williams said on PIX 11.
“We are trying to recover and renew New York state and New York City from the pandemic,” he said on NY1. “It’s hard to do that if the infrastructure that created the environment that we’ve seen in the last administration — but even before that in Albany — is still there.”
If he vies to boot the newly sworn-in Hochul from office, he’ll face an uphill battle, according to early polls.
In a hypothetical five-way Democratic gubernatorial primary that includes Williams and Hochul along with potential candidates like disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Attorney General Letitia James, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, the public advocate would come in fourth with 7 percent of the vote, according to a Siena College survey of Democrats released Tuesday.
A Marist Poll released last week that assessed a potential three-way race with Hochul, James and Williams found he stood in third place with just 13 percent of Empire State Democrats’ support.