Tish James Turns Up Heat on Rivals

There’s only one competitive citywide contest besides the mayor’s race this year, and Councilwoman Tish James is doing her best

Tish James. (Photo: Getty)
Tish James. (Photo: Getty)

There’s only one competitive citywide contest besides the mayor’s race this year, and Councilwoman Tish James is doing her best to make sure a few sparks fly as she jockeys for the public advocate’s office.

One day after taking a dig at a rival for being too cozy with Wall Street at a candidates’ forum, Ms. James went on the attack again last night, characterizing her two chief opponents as out-of-touch with the working class.

“I’m up against two opponents in this race,” Ms. James told members of a Clinton Hill Democratic club in her district. “One gets a lot of money from Wall Street. One is from a wealthy family.”

Though Ms. James didn’t name names, she was clearly referring to Democrats Reshma Saujani and State Senator Daniel Squadron, both of whom hold significant fund-raising advantages over Ms. James. For her part, Ms. James has the backing of a bevy of labor unions and is trying to position herself as the most aggressively liberal candidate in the electoral field.

During her remarks, Ms. James struck a populist chord, painting the race as one between “us” and “them.”

“I’m going to need all of you because there are more of us than there are of them,” Ms. James said to the predominately black, working-class crowd. “There are more working class people than there are rich people. And they have to understand we need a city and we need a mayor and a public advocate who thinks of the city beyond Manhattan. And that people can unfortunately no longer afford to live in Manhattan.”

Her comments in particular referred to Mr. Squadron’s wealthy upbringing–he holds a sizable trust fund–and Ms. Saujani’s well-heeled donors.

It wasn’t the first time she’d used such a charge. At a Wednesday night forum hosted by the Brooklyn Young Democrats, Ms. James also attacked Ms. Saujani, a former hedge fund lawyer and deputy public advocate, for still having ties to Wall Street and attacked her for saying public housing residents lived in “squalor.”

“For the office of public advocate one should not have to raise money from Wall Street or from the rich well-connected,” Ms James further argued in her closing remarks. “The office of public advocate should belong to the public.”

Ms. Saujani, who was voted the winner of the Wednesday night debate with Ms. James and their rivals, returned fire today.

“Let’s get real. Reshma is the daughter of immigrant refugees,” said Eric Conrad, Ms. Saujani’s communications director. “She worked her way through school, took on student loan debt that she’s still paying off, and has helped her parents pay their mortgage. She’s been fighting to create better opportunities for underserved and disadvantaged groups her entire life. Our opponent’s pathetic effort to portray Reshma as someone else reflects her own lack of appeal as a failed political insider and her inability to connect with the real New Yorkers she claims to care so much about.”

Mr. Squadron’s campaign was equally dismissive.

“It’s unfortunate when candidates make wrongheaded and divisive comments,” his campaign manager, Lauren Popper Ellis, said in a statement. “We will not engage in that kind of dialogue.”

With reporting by Colin Campbell.

Tish James Turns Up Heat on Rivals