John Liu and Bill de Blasio won Democratic runoff elections Tuesday for city comptroller and public advocate in an election that attracted little attention even though the positions are citywide posts.
Turnout was about 7 percent to 8 percent in both races, meaning that a relatively small number of the city's 3 million registered Democrats played an important role in choosing two members of the party's next class of power players.
The comptroller is the chief financial officer of the city, analyzing the budget, auditing city agencies and overseeing the $80 billion municipal pension system. The public advocate acts as City Hall watchdog and steps in if the mayor cannot serve.
Along with the mayor, they are two of the city's three citywide elected officials. Their terms run four years.
Both Liu and de Blasio are favored in the Nov. 3 general election against their lesser-known Republican opponents. Joe Mendola, a lawyer who has never held public office, is running for comptroller. Alex Zablocki, an entrepreneur and aide to a state senator from Staten Island, faces de Blasio for public advocate.
If de Blasio and Liu win in November, they will inherit pulpits where they can increase their profiles and push their Democratic agendas.
"I will be your voice," de Blasio told supporters Tuesday night, "and whenever your government is not there for you, I will stand up for you."
The Taiwan-born Liu, who would be the city's first Asian-American elected to citywide office if he were to win, noted how he and his parents "came here with hope and determination."
"There is much at stake for the future of this city," he said.
The seats were open because Comptroller William Thompson Jr. is running for mayor against billionaire incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum decided not to run again. Bloomberg is a former Republican who is no longer registered with a party.
The runoff came two weeks after a primary in which Liu and de Blasio failed to get 40 percent in their crowded respective contests.
In the runoff, Liu, a Queens city councilman, beat fellow Councilman David Yassky by 56 percent to 44 percent, according to complete but unofficial returns.
Liu, whose family emigrated to the U.S. when he was a child, was the City Council's first Asian-American representative when he was elected in 2001 and has worked as a manager at the global consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
De Blasio, a Brooklyn city councilman who has worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign manager for her U.S. Senate run in 2000, prevailed 63 percent to 37 percent against Air America radio president Mark Green, who held the job of public advocate when the position was created in 1993.
The job was formed when the City Council essentially renamed the post that was known as City Council president. The powers, including serving as a watchdog of City Hall and casting a vote if the City Council is tied, remained largely the same.
But among its most important duties is succeeding the mayor in the case of an emergency.
No public advocate has ever succeeded a mayor, and a City Council president has only done it once, in 1950.
Vincent Impellitteri took over as acting mayor after Mayor William O'Dwyer resigned amid a corruption scandal that year. He later won a special election and served three more years.
Only one mayor, William Jay Gaynor, has died in office since the city's five boroughs were consolidated in 1898. After Gaynor died in 1913, from injuries related to a shooting three years prior, he was succeeded by the president of the Board of Alderman, which predates the City Council.