Politics 5b

Until recently, there seemed to be relatively little interest in the part of city officials in running for the position of public advocate, with just a couple of people stating their interest in running next year.

But those days seem to be over, with an increasing number of elected officials and others saying they are either firm about their decision to run or considering entering the race.

In just the last few days, City Councilwoman Jessica S. Lappin, a Manhattan Democrat, said she was seriously thinking about entering the Democratic primary next year. And Guillermo Linares, a former councilman from Manhattan who is now commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, is said by other officials to be considering running, too.
Betsy GotbaumA crowded field has emerged in the race to succeed Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who is not seeking a third term. (Photo: Librado Romero/The New York Times)

They would join a field that already includes City Councilman Eric N. Gioia of Queens and Norman Siegel, the civil liberties lawyer. And the last month has produced two additional candidates: City Councilmen John C. Liu, also from Queens, and Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn. And many Democratic officials say they would not be surprised if more candidates stepped forward.

“I am very seriously considering running for public advocate,” Councilwoman Lappin said in an interview on Thursday. “I don’t really want to say too much more than that right now. But it’s something that looking at. I’ll be making a decision sometime soon.”

For some time, Mr. Linares has been considering entering the race, several Democratic officials said. He has been urged by some who said that it was important to have a Hispanic presence in an important citywide race.

Mr. Linares made history by becoming the first Dominican elected to public office in New York when he was elected to the City Council in 1991. He served in the Council until he was barred by the city’s term limit laws from running for re-election in 2001.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Linares declined to discuss whether he had political aspirations. “I can’t really make any comment, right now,” he said. “I’m totally immersed the work that I’m doing. And I don’t want to talk about any of that.”

Why all the sudden interest in a position that has been harshly criticized as unnecessary and redundant? (In fact, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, repeatedly tried to abolish the post, without success.)

For one thing, the incumbent public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, announced in October that she would not run for re-election.

Second, with the City Council’s approval last month of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s bill to extend term limits, turnover in the 2009 election is expected to be minimal. And in the aftermath of the bill’s passage, the position of public advocate is viewed as one of the few desirable jobs open for the city’s up-and-coming politicians to pursue.

“The beautiful thing about the position of public advocate is that it provides a great deal of flexibility,” said Michael Gaspard, a political consultant who works with Democratic officials.

“And if you get elected, you can shape it in any way you like. You can go after the mayor and take him on about whatever issues you like. And, as public advocate, you have subpoena power.”

Mr. Gaspard added that there are long-range political considerations as well. “The bottom line is that four years from now, Mayor Bloomberg won’t be spending $100 million to get re-elected and the public advocate is likely to be someone who would be viewed as being in line as a mayoral candidate.”

The position is attracting so many candidates, Mr. Gioia said, chiefly because of Ms. Gotbaum’s withdrawal.

“Whenever you have an open seat, people like to roll the dice, because they see an opportunity to run,” Mr. Gioia said. And in a critical allusion to his fellow candidates and would-be candidates, he said, “And they run even if they’re not ready for the job or if it’s a job they deep down don’t particularly want.”

The position of public advocate is one of three citywide elected offices. The advocate serves as an ombudsman for complaints from the public about city government, and the position comes with a salary of $150,000 and a staff of 47.

The position of public advocate is a relatively new one. Mark Green became the first person to hold that title when he was elected in 1993 after serving as the commissioner of consumer affairs in the Dinkins administration.

It is a citywide position that was somewhat reconfigured from its previous incarnation, when the job was known as City Council president.

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion

My, my, how things can change so fast.

Just last week, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión was telling a West Side English-language newspaper that he’s “absolutely, 100% certain” he’s running for city controller instead of a third term as BP.

He left out, however, that he was interviewing for a job with the Obama administration.

AC’s name was among those leaked over the weekend as possibles for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The buzz from AC’s camp back when it looked like Hillary Clinton had a lock on the White House was that AC, a former urban planner, might become HUD regional director.

Folks now say that after all that campaigning AC did around the country to help deliver that hefty Hispanic vote, he may want something bigger, like HUD undersecretary.

If Adolfo doesn’t land a job with Obama, he still may have to weigh that “100% certain” run for controller. See next item.

He’s really rooting for Adolfo

Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. stands to gain the most if Adolfo goes to work for Uncle Bam or runs for controller, especially if fellow borough presidential hopeful, Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera, runs for a third term.

Rubencito was praising AC last week, even saying he’d be a great pick by Gov. Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton as senator.

Let’s not get carried away here, okay?