NYC public advocate special election set for Feb. 26

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has officially called a citywide special election on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, to fill a vacancy in the office of public advocate.

Twice elected as public advocate, Letitia James resigned on Dec. 31, 2018, after serving five years. In November, she won the election for state attorney general and assumed the office on Jan. 1.

"We chose this date to maximize voter participation. This was the latest date available under the legal limit that also would fall on a Tuesday that was not a vacation day, was a regular work day," de Blasio said on Wednesday. "We've got a lot of work to do get the word out. Special elections are always a challenge. We know this. They get less attention for better, for worse."

The winner of the special election won't have much time to ease into the job because they would serve only through the end of the year. Indeed, the general election in November will decide who gets to serve the final two years of James' term.

The public advocate, who serves as a kind of ombudsman for New Yorkers, has little real power in city government. The position's most important statutory role is, arguably, to succeed a mayor who resigns, becomes incapacitated, or dies in office.

A former public advocate himself, de Blasio called it an "important role."

"It's important that the people of this city focus on this election," he said. "Over these next weeks, we're going to work very hard to inform New Yorkers about the election, to make sure they participate, and make sure they recognize how important it is to the future of this city."