Lander Leads Council Speaker Johnson in NYC Comptroller Race

City Council member Brad Lander of Brooklyn was riding the endorsements of fellow progressive Democrats to a sizable lead over Speaker Corey Johnson in the party’s primary for New York City comptroller.

Lander, backed by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren as well as The New York Times, had 31% of Tuesday’s vote with 84% of precincts reporting, compared with 23% for Johnson, according to the Associated Press.

The men led a field of 10 candidates for an office that serves as a check on the mayor. Under the city’s new ranked-choice voting system, the victor won’t be known until next month as absentee ballots are counted and the losing candidates’ ballots are assigned to the top vote-getters.

In a phone interview late Tuesday, Lander said the city’s “urgent challenge” was ensuring that Covid recovery funds from the federal government help all neighborhoods. “It’s a critical role to shine a spotlight on how we’re spending that money,” he said.

The comptroller is the chief auditor, responsible for rooting out financial fraud, evaluating municipal agencies, reviewing contracts and managing billions in borrowing. The position will take on added importance as the largest U.S. city battles back from an economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, with the comptroller ensuring that more than $14 billion of federal aid is used wisely.

The comptroller also oversees five public pensions that collectively hold more than $250 billion in assets for 700,000 current and former employees and retirees. That financial might allows the comptroller to exert influence over the environmental, social and governance practices of money managers and companies the city invests in.

Mayoral Dropout

Lander, 51, was leading Johnson, who entered the race this spring after dropping out of the Democratic primary for mayor months before, citing depression. Johnson, 39, had the endorsements of the city’s biggest unions for public and private workers.

“In New York City’s first-ever ranked choice election, Corey Johnson built a broad, diverse citywide coalition,” Johnson’s campaign spokesman wrote in an email. “We’re in a very strong position and will wait for all the votes to be counted.”

Lander, a former urban planner and housing advocate, raised $5 million in campaign contributions and public matching funds, about $100,000 more than Johnson. Lander received a $5,000 contribution from hedge fund billionaire George Soros and $2,450 from Stephanie Ingrassia, vice chair of the Brooklyn Museum and spouse of Tim Ingrassia, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s co-chairman of global mergers & acquisitions.

Lander has pledged more frequent audits of the education and police departments. He said he will conduct so-called “equity audits” to reduce disparities in services and establish a team to monitor capital projects so they don’t go over budget or fall behind schedule.

On pensions, Lander wants to boost investing that will encourage good governance and business practices and reduce higher-fee private equity and real-estate investments.

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