Second Political Acts: Elliot Spitzer to Run for New York City Comptroller
New York City politics becomes more titillating every day.
There’s an old joke about two Jewish women. One says to the other: “Did you hear about Glory Cohen? She’s having an affair.” The other then says, “Who’s catering?” And so it goes with the one-time career damaging political sex scandal. Add the name of disgraced and resigned New York Gov.Elliot Spitzer to the list of those who’ve apologized for their transgressions and jumped back into the political fray. And once again the public seems poised to shrug. He plans to run for New York City Comptroller — and even the Statue of Liberty who remains totally above the political fray knows it’s the first step in an attempted political comeback:
Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as governor of New York five years ago amid a prostitution scandal, is re-entering political life, with a run for the citywide office of comptroller and a wager that voters are ready to look past his previous misconduct.
In a telephone interview on Sunday night, Mr. Spitzer, 54, sounding restless after an unwelcome hiatus from government, said he had re-envisioned the often-overlooked office and yearned to resurrect the kind of aggressive role he played as New York State’s attorney general. He said that after consulting with his family and taking the temperature of the city’s electorate, he believed New Yorkers would be open to his candidacy. “I’m hopeful there will be forgiveness, I am asking for it,” he said.
His re-emergence comes in an era when politicians — like Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina and the New York mayoral contender Anthony D. Weiner — have shown that public disapproval, especially over sexual misconduct, can be fleeting, and that voters seem receptive to those who seek forgiveness and redemption.
His decision startled the city’s political establishment, which is already unsettled by the rapid rise of Mr. Weiner, who also plunged into a campaign without party elders’ blessing.
Mr. Spitzer batted away a question about whether the reception enjoyed by Mr. Weiner, who is running neck and neck with the front-runner Christine C. Quinn, factored into his decision, but said he was approached regularly by New Yorkers who say they would support him if he ran for office again.
“It happens all the time,” he said. “People who walk with me on the street say, ‘People really do want you to get back in.’ ”
That last line is likely to inspire some R-rated jokes in comedy clubs. And get ready for SNL.
But Spitzer’s prospect of winning is no laughing matter, notes The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza:
Political creatures — and Spitzer is one through and through — find a way back into politics. The question for Spitzer, as it was for fellow disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, was when — not if — he would run again. And now Spitzer and Weiner, who is running for mayor, will appear on the same primary ballot this fall. (Before you make too many “Spitzer = Weiner” observations, read this piece by Ben Smith on how the two men are nothing alike.)
The real question as it relates to Spitzer is whether he can win. The answer, according to interviews with a handful of New York City political consultant types, is quite clearly “yes.”
“He wants back into public life and this is the first real opportunity,” explained Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant based in New York. “He can win because he has a name, dough, and looks like the expert in a financial position.”
Prior to the Spitzer announcement, the race was seen as a sure thing for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Stringer, who opted for the comptroller race after publicly mulling a run for mayor, has the backing of much of the NYC political establishment; in the wake of the Spitzer news, a number of mayoral hopefuls including New York City Council Speaker Chris Quinn and NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio affirmed their support for Stringer’s candidacy.
That establishment backing will play right into Spitzer’s hands, according to a longtime New York political hand. “He will run as the scourge of Wall Street and as an outsider with real accomplishments and try to paint Stringer as a hack with few accomplishments,” said the source. “Yes, he can win.”
The other factor in the race that works in Spitzer’s favor is his personal wealth. (Spitzer’s father, a real estate magnate, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.) Stringer has a massive fundraising head start — he has raised better than $2.7 million — and Spitzer would struggle to catch up (or even come close) under the city’s public financing system. But Spitzer made clear to the Times on Sunday night that he would opt out of that system and instead finance the campaign largely from his own checkbook.
The Daily Beast’s Political Director John Avlon notes the trend of politicians who were not politically decimated by sex scandals, no matter how it appeared at the time of screeching headlines and lively Tweets. Two others: South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and of course Weiner.
Inspired by the unexpected success of Anthony Weiner, whose crotch shots and sexting with strangers seem only to have added to his street cred, Spitzer is echoing Weiner’s signature request for “forgiveness” and a second chance. Hubristic humility is now a thing in New York…
….Anthony Weiner took notice and decided that now was the time to put his Q-rating and remaining campaign coffers to the test with a run for New York City mayor. Better-prepared, lesser-known Democratic challengers have failed thus far to turn Weiner’s public disgrace into a disqualifier—and buoyed by panting media coverage, he has turned the campaign into a referendum on relatability, going so far as to compare his struggle to the “hero’s arc.” Overcoming the embarrassment of a sex scandal is now apparently the equivalent of serving time on Robben Island.
It must be said that Spitzer is smarter than Weiner, at least in terms of his target selection. Weiner could not help himself—he had to run for the highest office in his land, City Hall. As I’ve argued before, a far smarter if uncharacteristically modest move for Weiner would have been to run for a secondary citywide office, such as public advocate or comptroller. Pay your penance while demonstrating a commitment to public service. Work hard, keep your head down, and four to eight years later, electoral redemption would have been well earned. That is now Spitzer’s game plan.
And so we are likely witnessing the first act of an extended comeback by a driven man who wants to be taken seriously again and trusted with power. The fact that his brief tenure as governor was far from a success seems beside the point.
The sad fact is that in our celebrity-driven society, sex scandals guarantee that a politician will rise above the humdrum of campaigns full of earnest legislators. The press is eager to cover the soap opera, and the public seems eager to engage in the real-life telenovela. Now the clichéd old rule of Hollywood—there’s no such thing as bad press—seems to apply to public service. What could possibly go wrong?
Indeed, in the future if there’s a sexting scandal Americans may yawn and dismiss it as the ultimate transparency in a politician. And when a sex scandal hits Americans’ basic reaction may be what we seem to be seeing here:
A CROSS SECTION OF REACTION:
—The Week’s Peter Weber:
In some ways, Spitzer’s comeback bid is strikingly similar to former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s. Both men’s governorships were defined by sexual scandal — Sanford was formally censured after secretly leaving the country for a tryst with his Argentine mistress, Spitzer resigned in 2008 after he was outed for hiring expensive prostitutes — and both have sought political redemption through lower-ranking office. Sanford won his U.S. House race in May.
Spitzer’s late jump into the New York City’s comptroller race, however, will mostly be compared with former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D) late-start New York City mayoral campaign. Weiner hasn’t won anything yet — the first hurdle, the Democratic primary, isn’t until September — but he’s already earned a sort of political absolution by rising to a first-place tie in recent polls against longtime frontrunner Christine Quinn (D).
Before we delve into why Spitzer could win his race, let’s look first at why he may not.
Go to the link to read the rest.
Does Spitzer actually have a chance in this race? I’ve honestly got no idea, but he’s got the name recognition and the money and, as both Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner have shown us recently, bouncing back from a sex scandal doesn’t seem to be as hard as people might have thought that it was. Yes, the poll numbers are saying that the voters are negative on him, but there were polls saying the same thing about Sanford and Weiner when they first entered their respective races. Sanford, of course, ended up winning his race and Weiner has, at least at the moment, made the New York City Mayor’s race a two-person race between him and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. So, anything seems to be possible and that’s probably what Spitzer is counting on. Besides, notwithstanding his downfall, Spitzer’s record as a crusader against Wall Street may be one that would play well in a populist campaign in the city, although it obviously cause Wall Street to send a lot of money to his opponents.
–Poynter gives us some New York tabloid covers (see one at top) HERE.
If you’re a politician who left office over a sex scandal, this is the year to make your comeback. Mark Sanford is now a sitting congressman, and Anthony Weiner tops the polls in the New York mayor’s race.
And now, it’s Eliot Spitzer’s turn.
Former CNN host Eliot Spitzer running for NYC comptroller: testing the limits in the post-Weiner era?
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) July 8, 2013
CLIENT NO. 9 IS BACK: Spitzer, Wiener, Madam in Ballot Threesome… http://t.co/krmAnJyWIp
— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) July 8, 2013
— Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) July 8, 2013
Leno: Eliot Spitzer and John Edwards both have birthdays today. Which explains why no strippers are available for other parties.
— Andrew Malcolm (@AHMalcolm) June 11, 2013
Dear @TheDemocrats, You lost any moral high ground with Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Gary Hart, Eliot Spitzer…
— John C. (@JCinQC) May 8, 2013
Sure I'm not the only one reading NYC political news today & thinking Weiner-Spitzer would make quite a campaign button.
— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 8, 2013
Guys Eliot Spitzer is running against the very madam that supplied his hookers. Awkward. http://t.co/nYZAA8Zy84
— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) July 8, 2013
Remember when Cuomo said "shame on us" about Weiner? Can't wait to see what he says about his friend Spitzer
— maggie haberman (@maggiepolitico) July 8, 2013
Good for Spitzer. Never should have resigned in the first place.
— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 8, 2013