Anthony Weiner dodges talk of sexting scandal, shifts focus to ideas, opponents

William Holt
Anthony Weiner and his spokeswoman Barbara Morgan (Alo Ceballos/FilmMagic)
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Anthony Weiner and Barbara Morgan

Seeking to shift attention away from the sexting scandal that has put his campaign on life support, New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner announced the release of an "ideas book" — his second — on Monday, while attempting to refocus his aim on the political opponents who are swiftly eclipsing him in the polls.

“I have said from the word ‘go’ in this campaign that I’m the underdog,” the disgraced former congressman told a crowd gathered at a Queens park. “I don’t know how I could be anything else given the way I left public life the first time and the challenges that I’ve faced. But I’ve also said that citizens, when given a choice, are interested in hearing your ideas. They want to hear about their lives.”

While outlining the proposals in his new book, "Even More Keys to the City," Weiner deflected questions about subjects that he deemed “off-topic,” such as another Anthony Weiner from Boston and ex-fling Sydney Leathers’ sex tape. Instead, he tried to position himself as the “ideas candidate” in the race, distinct from the “city elite” who “created the challenges we’re in today.”

“You’ve got a former comptroller, a speaker, a public advocate — you’ve got plenty of choices,” he said, referring to Democratic rivals Bill Thompson, Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio, respectively. “But if you want someone who comes from a different direction, I’m here for them.”

Asked whether he thinks his opponents are running campaigns that are not based on ideas, Weiner insisted that he would “leave that question to someone else.”

“I can tell you they’ve done a lot of campaigns standing in front of cheering crowds wearing all the same color shirts,” he said. “There’s nothing dishonorable about those people, but I think it’s just a different approach. I think they come from a different place. I think to some degree they’re hidebound to the environment that they came up in.”

Weiner’s new book includes 61 ideas he says are intended tackle the “decaying foundations of middle class life in the Big Apple.” Some of the proposals include hiring ex-cops for parade and festival detail, increasing the fuel efficiency of New York City’s vehicle fleet by 30 percent, and ending tourist and commuter helicopters over the five boroughs.

Weiner released his first policy booklet in April, describing the 21-page document as a blueprint for keeping New York City “the capital of the middle class.” On Monday he reiterated that message, insisting that voters are much more interested in hearing about ideas than private scandals.

“It’s a common mistake that pundits make,” said Weiner. “They think that these campaigns are about the candidates. For most citizens, they’re not. They’re about individual people sitting at home trying to figure out who’s going to be there, who’s going to fight for their battles, who’s going to be thinking about their challenges.”