In an email to supporters Tuesday morning, Garodnick said he has made up his mind to run — whether Liu, a fellow Democrat, decides to mount a re-election bid or not.
"With a continuing deficit, challenges to our pension system and a changing landscape at City Hall, New Yorkers need an independent voice they can trust in the comptroller’s office," Garodnick said.
"We will have to be totally focused on finding creative and responsible ways to deliver the most productive municipal government possible — without distractions."
Liu, who is continuing to pursue a run for mayor, has seen his rising star tarnished by allegations of campaign finance fraud. His former treasurer and a major fundraiser were both arrested as part of an ongoing federal investigation into Liu's fundraising. Liu has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.
But Garodnick likely won't have to worry about a potential challenge for the comptroller's seat from Liu.
"Dan is a perceptive politician who knows of some of the private conversations John has had recently," Liu's campaign spokesman, George Arzt, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon, referring to recent reports that Liu is planning a run for mayor, or nothing.
"The announcement today is a smart move on his part to get a jump on his competitors. John wishes him well," he said.
But Garodnick didn't pull any punches against Liu Tuesday as he spoke outside City Hall following the announcement, declaring that "the comptroller’s office needs a reset."
"The distractions over there have made it impossible to get some very important initiatives done," he said, referring to a pension overhaul proposal that has stalled in recent months.
"Now audits that are being done are viewed entirely in a political lens. That’s not fair to New York City voters, and I believe that I can bring an independent, reform-minded voice to the office come January 2014," he said.
Garodnick, 39, is chairman of the council’s Consumer Affairs Committee and has played a key role in many recent consumer protection initiatives, including efforts to better regulate pedicabs and force street food vendors to post letter grades.
The former lawyer has also been deeply involved in tenant issues at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, where he was raised and currently lives with his wife and young son.
In a video posted on his website, Garodnick said he would use tax dollars wisely while "restoring public trust in the office."
"You’re not going to get a lot of drama from me," he pledged. "I will be a single-mined watchdog over our taxpayer dollars in a way that is both disciplined and responsible."
Garodnick is the first pol to formally announce he'll run for comptroller, but other possible contenders for the job include City Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr., who leads the council's powerful Finance Committee.
Garodnick has already raised more than $1 million for his campaign, finance records show.
Liu, a former Queens councilman, took over as the city's fiscal watchdog in 2010, becoming the first Asian-American elected to a citywide office.
A spokesman for Liu's campaign declined to comment on Garodnick's announcement.