Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn city councilman, addressing his followers at a victory party on Tuesday.CreditCreditTodd Heisler/The New York Times

Jumaane D. Williams, a Democratic councilman from Brooklyn, was elected as New York City public advocate Tuesday night, notching a victory over 16 other candidates in a free-for-all race that could give him a platform to seek higher office.

Mr. Williams entered the race as a front-runner after his surprise insurgency campaign for lieutenant governor against the Democratic incumbent, Kathy Hochul, netted him more than 434,000 votes in New York City in a losing effort last year.

He used that momentum to argue that he had the support of voters who saw his history as an activist — including several arrests for civil disobedience — as evidence that he would be an unapologetic antagonist to Mayor Bill de Blasio when needed.

As Mr. Williams took the stage at Cafe Omar in Flatbush to give his acceptance speech, he appeared buoyant, mouthing the words to “Differentology,” a song by the soca artist, Bunji Garlin. He swayed to the beat and mouthed the words to the chorus, “We ready for the road,” before addressing the crowd.

“We cannot wait, we cannot stand still, because the challenges in our city are too great,” Mr. Williams said. “But the opportunity to create change is even greater.”

He pledged to listen to his fellow New Yorkers and then take action on behalf of the city’s most disadvantaged residents, naming people living in public housing and victims of gun violence. He vowed to help “ upend a system of injustice that criminalizes black and brown communities, and to give those who have been caught in the system a second chance. Most of them, a first chance.”

The speech ended on an emotional note, as Mr. Williams, in tears, spoke of being in therapy for the last three years, building up his self-worth.

The public advocate serves as an ombudsman to the city and is first in line to succeed a mayor departing before the end of his term. It is also seen as a potential launching pad to higher office; Mr. de Blasio went from being public advocate to becoming mayor. Continue reading

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