Today’s news:

Liu drops public advocate bid, enters race for city comptroller

Undaunted by a challenge, City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing) announced Sunday he will run for city comptroller, leaving behind a public advocate race in which early polls had him trailing to join another that is already crowded with Queens candidates.

Liu tossed his hat into the ring Sunday while flanked by supporters on the steps of City Hall and said today’s economic climate demands a comptroller with a shrewd eye for fiscal efficiency and a firm understanding of the situation facing the city.

“Now more than ever, we need a comptroller who will root out waste and inefficiency as budget cuts are imposed, and ensure accountability and equal opportunity as billions in stimulus funding arrive,” Liu said. “With my professional background in finance and my experience in city government, combined with my demand for fairness and equality, I will be that comptroller. I will be the comptroller who will keep my eye on the big picture while scrutinizing the details.”

By entering the race, Liu, the first Asian−American to be elected to the Council, is already the best−funded candidate in the race for the seat thus far, having raised well over $3 million from more than 3,100 donors, according to the city Campaign Finance Board.

He also has received strong support from minority constituencies as well. Liu appeared Sunday alongside several black and Asian−American leaders, including the chairman of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus in the state Assembly, Darryl Towns (D−Brooklyn).

“John, as the Council’s Transportation chair, was the first to question the accounting practices at the MTA that led to the discovery of two sets of books. He has continued to call for transparency and accountability in our government,” Towns said. “With growing budget deficits, we need to maximize every dollar and John will continue to represent our interests as comptroller.”

Liu joins a race that already includes two Queens candidates, Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D−Forest Hills) and Councilman David Weprin (D−Hollis) as well as Councilman David Yassky (D−Brooklyn). Katz, who has been running for the post for more than a year already, was not quick to welcome Liu to the ring.

“[New Yorkers] deserve a comptroller who respects and champions this position for the importance that it holds, not someone who views it as a second choice,” Katz said, referring to Liu’s brief foray into the race for public advocate.

Liu never formally declared for the public advocate race, but his campaign registered him as a candidate for the seat and his Web site, up until mid−February, all but confirmed his intent to run for that spot.

“John will continue to ensure that New Yorkers have a public advocate who is uncompromising, independent and results−driven,” the site read.

But early polls were not favorable for Liu.

Just 6 percent of the 827 registered voters contacted by the Marist Polling Institute in a Feb. 23 poll said they would vote for Liu to succeed incumbent Betsy Gotbaum, leaving the councilman trailing former public advocate Mark Green, who led all candidates with 35 percent.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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