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Redundant special elections costing taxpayers tens of millions

Posted: 6:38 PM, May 24, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-24 18:38:05-04

When Tish James became New York’s Attorney General it set off a chain of events that could end up costing New York City taxpayers north of $60 million.

So far in 2019, Jumaane Williams won a special election to take James’ place as Public Advocate, and Farah Louis won a special election to take Williams’ place on the city council. Running those two elections cost up to $15.3 million.

Due to new robust campaign finance law allowing 8-to-1 matching funds, taxpayers gave the candidates running in the two races a combined $8 million.

Taxpayers spend approximately a combined $23.3 million, and more elections for the same positions are ahead. By law, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for two more elections: A primary on June 25 and a general election on November 5.

In fairness, the two elections later this year will likely costs a little less, because fewer candidates are running. That means less publicly matched money will be handed out.

However, the prospect of spending anywhere near $23 million two more times this year is something many lawmakers, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, said might need to change.

“It sounds very ridiculous and very expensive,” Stringer said. “We want our democracy to work in the city, so I never say stop elections because of money. But I do think we need to look at the city charter and the election law and see if we can streamline some of these special elections.”

This very costly election cycle would repeat itself if Mayor de Blasio starts doing well in his run for the White House and feels he needs to resign. His decision would trigger three mayoral election cycles in quick succession.