Primary Culler: Comptroller’s Race Fluid, But Liu Grabs a Lead


The city comptroller race is tight: the lead’s been changing a lot, and a poll earlier this month showed Melinda Katz, David Yassky and John Liu covering a five-point spread. The most recent survey shows Liu grabbing a huge lead. David Weprin trails, but even after substantial coverage and $10 million in campaign spending, it’s only safe to say the situation is fluid. (The candidates are all councilmembers.)

There’s not a huge difference among the candidates on policy, so their appeals and attacks have veered toward the personal

Yassky’s a wonkish type whose mother says he was writing poems about “global issues” at the age of 8. He had the bright idea early in the race of establishing an online guide to the city budget. On the council he pushed for the Bikes in Buildings Bill that passed in July, and though Liu’s been the council’s Transportation Chair, transportation gadfly Streetsblog prefers Yassky as “Livable Streets advocates’ best friend in City Council.” A few days ago Chuck Schumer finally endorsed his former aide; Yassky features this fact in last-minute commercials.

Liu may be best remembered in this cycle for his perhaps inflated claim that he worked in a sweatshop as a lad. On the council he’s been big on transportation issues, and has run the occasional media sideshow. He was originally looking at the public advocate’s seat, but switched when Mark Green got into that race. He’s not afraid to get personal, telling the Daily News Yassky “lacks conviction and trades on personal and political opportunities.” He has also proposed, in a more friendly way, that he and Weprin “wrestle” for the office.

Katz, previously a member of the state assembly, has made the dramatic promise to cut her own salary as comptroller (Weprin wondered why she hadn’t cut her salary as a councilmember). She promotes herself as a family-friendly candidate, and brags that when “an HMO lobbyist told me a woman didn’t know when she needed to see an OB/GYN. I told him he could stick it.” The Times notices that Katz “has brought her 16-month-old son, Carter, to a few campaign events, and she frequently talks about her role as the only woman running for citywide office.”

Weprin, with much ground to make up, in shown in his ads to be running against “politicians” as well as his specific opponents, and in his mailers tags Katz and Yassky as erstwhile supporters of the death penalty. He’s not a dynamo on the stump, but he’s got the green eyeshade cred, having held related government jobs like state deputy superintendent of banks, and he has actual financial industry experience. He promises plenty of audits, leading to “better returns.”

Gotham Gazette finds Katz, Weprin, and Yassky all in receipt of six-figure campaign contributions from the real estate industry. On the council Katz and Yassky voted for Bloomberg’s term limits overthrow; Liu and Weprin voted against it. We saw Katz’ and Yassky’s pitches to the VID in April.