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Could New York City Have A Weiner-Spitzer Era Next Election?

Submitted by on July 9, 2013 – 9:23 amNo Comment

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer hastily announced this week that he would run for New York City Comptroller, making his first return to politics since he resigned following a prostitution scandal in 2008. Spitzer joins Anthony Weiner in attempting a comeback in the 2013 citywide election. Weiner, a former congressman from Queens, resigned in 2011 after being discovered tweeting obscene pictures to young women, and then lying about it. New York City is certainly a city of flawed people and second chances, but could either- or both- of these men succeed this fall?

First of all, are their situations similar? Ben Smith at Buzzfeed highlights the differences:

But Spitzer has basically nothing in common with Weiner, aside from their low body fat and shared (and lightly observed) Jewish faith. Weiner is a talented politician who left Congress with no major legislative accomplishments and everything to prove. Spitzer was a major force in American public life for eight years despite having no particular talent for politics.

The point is well taken. Spitzer spent years building a reputation as the most dangerous man for Wall Street (although obviously not dangerous enough in retrospect), while Weiner was known mainly for a few good rants on the House floor that went viral. On the other hand, Weiner was still popular just before his scandal, while Spitzer had suffered through a terrible first year as governor.

But Smith badly mischaracterizes their crimes and missteps:

Weiner’s online romances brought him down because they were weird. Spitzer’s ordinary sin — any number of politicians have survived prostitution scandals — ended his tenure as governor because his governorship was already going terribly.

Weiner was not just “weird”- he lied, badly, at first when the pictures were revealed. Voters tend to be more forgiving of politicians who cop to their misdeeds immediately.

More importantly, Spitzer’s crime may not have been unique, but it was still a crime. The man who was once the top law enforcement agent in the state solicited illegal prostitutes. Weiner may have been unethical, but that’s between him and his family and isn’t in itself against the law.

Still, both men have admittedly strong shots at the offices they seek. Weiner is the less qualified candidate- as stated above, he is an ideas man, and the mayor’s office is very much a practical office (i.e. the less-than-charismatic master administrator, Michael Bloomberg). But Weiner recently became the front runner in polls ahead of early favorite Christine Quinn.

There’s no polling data on Spitzer yet, but he has name recognition, is overqualified for the office (the Comptroller audits the city’s finances), and has tons of money. Spitzer has already suggested that he will decline the city’s public financing and use his family’s personal fortune for the campaign. And the Washington Post‘s The Fix says Spitzer could very effectively run as a powerful outsider, characterizing current frontrunner (and well-liked Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer) as an ineffectual machine politician.

What do you think? Does either man have a chance? Should they?

[Image by AP/Seth Wenig]

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