Mark Green, the best-known candidate in the public advocate’s race—and the only one who has been public advocate before—is almost at 40 percent in the polls. This would be enough for him to avoid a run-off with any of his three Democratic rivals. It is more than enough to make him the primary target of all of his opponents.
Today, during a debate this morning at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown hosted by City Hall News and NY1, Green felt it from all of them.
One opponent, Eric Gioia, challenged Green on his plan to recruit volunteers to help run the public advocate’s office, saying to Green, “You are having trouble making the ballot. I mean, you’re paying people to collect your petitions. Do you really think it’s possible that anyone is going to want to come off the sidelines and volunteer with your office?”
After an exchange with Gioia, Green said Gioia should stick to the issues, rather than firing a “machine gun full of blanks.”
Later, Gioia tried to rehash Green’s criticism of his opponent in the 2001 mayoral primary, asking, “Do you still think its fair to say Freddy was divisive?” Green responded by saying, more or less, that he didn’t want to talk about the past.
Bill de Blasio slammed Green, a professional critic who opposed Giuliani stridently when they were both in office, for not being sufficiently critical, at some key moments, of Michael Bloomberg.
“Mark, where were you when we were rallying and fighting and all of us were trying to do something on this issues? Where were you?”
Green defended his work while in office during the 1990s, specifically on child welfare issues. “I was the Bill de Blasio when Elisa Izquierdo was killed. Actually, I have to correct myself. Before she was murdered, I had raised the issues,” Green said, referring to the 6-year-old girl whose death prompted major changes by the city.
“Your researchers are brilliant,” he added. “I haven’t been in office for the last eight years.”
The fourth candidate, Norman Siegel, was somewhat more restrained. When asked about his higher ambitions, Siegel said he had no plans to ever run for mayor and didn’t think the public advocate should be the next in line to succeed the mayor in an emergency. It was as much a shot at Gioia and de Blasio as it was at Green.
Green did not rule out a future run for mayor and said that Councilman Simcha Felder “needs a new legislative director” for proposing to eliminate the office.
Green also said he was unsure how he would have voted on this year’s budget, which restored critical social services, but slashed the public advocate’s budget by 40 percent.