Last night New York City comptroller candidate Scott Stringer hosted a fundraiser at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. The world "comptroller" alone sounds utterly and terminally unhip--and Stringer, himself, middle-aged white guy politician and wearer of practical suits, doesn't exactly scream "cool" either. Yet, the event could have easily been mistaken for an exclusive fashion party. The host committee read like a veritable who's who of the fashion industry and downtown scene: Lena Dunham, The Man Repeller's Leandra Medine, Pamela Love, Emily Weiss, Vogue's Chloe Malle and Thessaly La Force, and Claire Distenfeld were all listed. Harper's Bazaar's Laura Brown, Prabal Gurung and countless other fashion party mainstays came out too.
Not exactly the crew you'd picture rallying to get Stringer elected and keep his opponent Eliot Spitzer out. Dunham, who gave a speech endorsing Stringer, even acknowledged, "When [Stringer] told me he was running for comptroller the first thing I did was Google the word 'comptroller'." She also estimated that about "half" the crowd didn't know what a comptroller was either. She was probably right.
So why were they there? One name: Audrey Gelman. You might know her better as the permanently Coachella bound Audrey from Girls, or as Terry Richardson's girlfriend, but she's also Stringer's whip smart spokesperson. She moves seamlessly between the fashion world and the world of city politics--and last night she brought them together (wearing Dior). She wouldn't go on the record last night--better to keep the story on her candidate--but her friends did.
"Audrey is a friend of mine," Leandra Medine explained. "She draws this fashion crowd, but they're here with merit. She's educating people. A lot of people don’t even know that this position exists."
Case in point, Prabal Gurung admitted he came because "a few of his friends were hosting," but that he was inspired to research the candidate. "He stands for women's rights, for affordable housing, he's invested in the essence of what makes New York New York," he said. "I've been involved with the Obama campaign, but to see all of us here, it's good for our industry." Laura Brown echoed his sentiments: "My reason for being here is very basic: I want the good guy to win," she said. "I just think this a good man, he cares about New York, I live here, he’s been kind to me for 12 years, and I can’t vote, so at least I can be here and be of minor use."
And even if some scenesters turned out because it seemed like another cool party, they probably left with a good understanding of what a comptroller does after all, and likely feel Stringer's the man for the job.
Dunham did a fantastic job of explaining how the kind of work a comptroller affects a young person in New York and that the issues Stringer supports--women's rights, tech, affordable housing--are the important ones. On women's rights: "We need a candidate with a record of respecting women and the issues that matter to them. Just ‘cause it’s New York city doesn’t mean it’s gonna be okay for us forever. There’s been like weird Red States creeping in here, and you know that." On making sure young people, especially creatives like Dunham, can afford to live in New York: "We can't have our generation's Patti Smith moving to Tampa. That's gonna seriously fuck our shit up... A one-bedroom apartment shouldn't cost $6,000, but Europeans don't know that."
As for Stringer, he seems to have embraced his unexpected by-proxy hipness: "This job of comptroller, [it's] a job I like to think I’ve made very cool around the country," he said. "No one ever thought municipal finance could be sexy but tonight we showed that this office matters." And he acknowledged his audience. "We also have to make way for this amazing next generation. A city that speaks 170 languages from 200 countries also has to recognize that we’ve got to watch out for that next generation, the people who want to get involved in high tech and fashion--which is way we have to save the garment center and figure out ways to educate our children in the next technology. That’s what we have to focus on."
Click through to read Dunham's speech in full.
"I’m nervous to be speaking to this politically savvy and engaged crowd, but I will try to be articulate.
I grew up in New York. I spent nearly everyday of my life here. When I’m in other cities for too long I get extremely nauseous because their air is toxic to me. I don’t know how to find food in other places and I’ve nearly starved to death on multiple occasions when spending extended periods of time outside of New York city. I’m a product of this city, I love this city, and the city’s politics are extremely important to me.
When I first had the pleasure of meeting Scott Stringer, he instantly struck me as someone who had a genuine passion for the wellbeing of this diverse, complex city and all of its residents. When he told me he was running for comptroller the first thing I did was Google the word “comptroller.” Then I told him I would do anything I could do to help his campaign, which is why I’m here tonight with you.
For some reason I thought the comptroller was the guy who rode on the back of the fire truck with the boatwheel thingy to steer the back of the truck, but that’s actually not it. That’s not what Scott Stringer’s running for if anyone else is thinking that. Actually his job is only very indirectly involved in the operation of fire trucks.
In some elections we have a real choice between candidates. Maybe they’re distinguished by policies or by position papers, but let’s be clear: that’s not the case in this election. This is not a close call.
We need a candidate with a record of respecting women and the issues that matter to them. Just ‘cause it’s New York city doesn’t mean it’s gonna be okay for us forever. There’s been like weird Red States creeping in here, and you know that. We need a candidate with a record of caring about the needs of the next generation of New Yorkers, and in Scott Stringer we have just such a candidate. He's running for comptroller because he understands how tough it is for middle class people to make it in this city today. They're the backbone of the city but they're getting priced right out of it. They're graduating college, if they can afford it, and struggling to find jobs and pay the rent. And if they struggle for too long, they're leaving New York and moving to Seattle, Chicago, Austin...in some cases, even Tampa.
As New York becomes less and less affordable, it risks losing the creative spirit that makes it what it is.
I grew up in the SoHo that was full of galleries, where my parents graduated college and were able to live in a loft for $350 a month and they just paid their stove from ConEdison. Now, the building that I was born in houses a Victoria's Secret that is next door to a Sephora. Anyway, we can't have our generation's Patti Smith moving to Tampa. That's gonna seriously fuck our shit up.
As comptroller, Scott will work everyday to make life a little easier for you. That mean's being the watchdog of our city's budget—that is what a comptroller does, for anyone here who still didn't know, but I'm guessing that's about half of you. He'll bring the same independence, integrity, and reform-minded approach to government that have been the hallmark of his public service for the past 20 years. Just in case you were worried, no one fed me the term "reform-minded"; I know that term and I use it all the time...in lovemaking situations.
A few recent highlights of Scott's political career include, but are not limited to: he released the first comprehensive report on the city's tech economy and how to grow it for all five boroughs—not just for Chelsea or Williamsburg. He authored landmark laws on domestic violence as a member of the state assembly, and passed the state's first anti-stalking legislation, which has been really great for me because I just can't get rid of them hos. He's protecting New York city women and this dude Darren who I have been taking voyeuristic photos of for years.
And for 20 years, Scott Stringer has been on the front lines of fighting for tenants' rights and supporting the preservation and development of affordable housing—something New York city really needs more of. A one-bedroom apartment shouldn't cost $6,000, but Europeans don't know that. They're paying whatever, and it's really everything. Scott has a really good plan. He has a record of honesty, transparency, and accountability to his constituents, and I am proud to endorse Scott Stringer as our next city comptroller."