The eight Democratic candidates for city comptroller will face off at 7 p.m. Thursday during the first city Campaign Finance Board-sanctioned broadcast debate for that office.
Brian Benjamin, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Zach Iscol, Corey Johnson, Brad Lander, Kevin Parker, Reshma Patel and David Weprin are each expected to make their pitch on why they should become the city’s next chief financial officer.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely take the general election in November and replace current Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is term-limited and running for mayor. The event comes just two days before the start of early voting in the June 22 primary.
The debate is organized in partnership with NY1, WNYC/Gothamist, THE CITY, Citizens Union, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Social Work Votes (Columbia School of Social Work & Latino Leadership Institute).
NY1’s Errol Louis will moderate and ask the candidates questions, along with WNYC’s Brigid Bergin and THE CITY’s Rachel Holliday Smith.
The debate will be broadcast on Spectrum News NY1 and WNYC from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with a livestream, via THE CITY.
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The comptroller is the city’s municipal auditor and fiduciary, who, along with a staff of about 800, prepares reports on spending, reviews city contracts, manages hundreds of billions of dollars worth of public pension funds and issues bonds to finance large projects. The comptroller is second in line, behind the public advocate, to succeed the mayor.
Johnson, who is the speaker of City Council and previously was in the running for mayor, is the frontrunner, according to limited early polling.
Lander, a Council member, has been on the attack in recent weeks: He launched a website questioning Johnson’s achievements leading the Council. Johnson’s spokesperson previously defended his work, as did several Council members.
Lander also raised concerns over Johnson’s ability to fairly participate in budget negotiations and cited his absence from executive budget hearings. In a statement, Johnson’s Council spokesperson, Jennifer Fermino, said the Council “secured many budget priorities” thanks in part to the speaker’s leadership.
The criticisms will likely spill into Thursday’s debate.
Johnson and Lander aren’t the only elected officials vying for the comptroller job: Benjamin and Parker currently serve as state senators, and Weprin is a member of the state Assembly.
The other three candidates are relative political newcomers.
Caruso-Cabrera, who has also begun to hit Johnson, is a financial journalist who formerly registered as a Republican and waged an ill-fated challenge last year against U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens, The Bronx). Iscol is a former Marine who started a nonprofit to help veterans, and Patel, who has worked in public finance, is president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club of Manhattan.
The Democratic “leading contenders” will meet again for another CFB-sanctioned debate on WNBC-TV from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m on Saturday, June 20, just two days before the primary.