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Democrats Head Back to Polls for Public Advocate Runoff

 Councilwoman Letitia James and State Sen. Daniel Squadron.
Councilwoman Letitia James and State Sen. Daniel Squadron.
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William Alatriste/New York State Tenants & Neighbors

CIVIC CENTER — Voters headed back to the polls Tuesday to pick a new public advocate, after no candidate in last month’s Democratic primary received enough votes to avoid a runoff.

Councilwoman Letitia James and state Sen. Daniel Squadron were the top finishers in the primary and went head-to-head on the ballot Tuesday. With no Republican opponent in November, the winner of Tuesday's runoff will secure the citywide office.

Over the past three weeks leading up to the runoff, James and Squadron lobbed increasingly personal attacks at each other.

The negative campaigning reached new depths during a recent debate, in which both candidates tried to tie the other to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. James then accused Squadron of living off a trust fund, while Squadron said James deceived her constituents about being a landlord.

James headed into what was expected to be a low-turnout runoff having earned the most votes on primary night, even as her 36 percent came short of the 40 percent she would have needed for an all-out win.

Her campaign became a rallying point for labor unions and women’s rights groups after it became clear that she was the last woman with a chance at winning a citywide office.

Squadron, who came in second with just over 33 percent of the primary vote last month, picked up The New York Times' endorsement in the primary, and, more recently, the New York Post's support in the runoff.

Polls are open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The citywide election is estimated to cost $13 million, or more than four times the current annual budget of the public advocate’s office.