NEW YORK (AP) — Anthony Weiner got a supportive reception Thursday during the first appearance of his New York City mayoral campaign.
People shook his hand outside a Harlem subway station and asked him about issues ranging from police tactics to education and services for the mentally ill.
New Yorkers, "particularly those in the middle class communities like this, they want to talk about the challenges that New York faces. That's what they care about and I want to provide some answers," Weiner told reporters.
Restaurant worker Joe Albaines said he thought the Democrat would make a good mayor.
"He's a family man. And I think he cares about the middle class," said Albaines. "I remember the scandal that he went through. But like I said, that's between him and his wife."
"I frankly have been encouraged by how many people say they're prepared to give me a second chance and just listen to my ideas," Weiner said.
However Weiner does when the polls close, he's certain to add drama to the most competitive New York City mayor's race in more than a decade.
The scandal-lashed former congressman's arrival in the race was initially met with a mix of polite greetings, blowback and bring-it-on bravado from his now-rivals. Average New Yorkers were at no loss for opinions, either.
Weiner has said he knows his run will be an uphill one, but he wants to bring his ideas into the race — and win.
"I think I have something to contribute. And I think that it's up to New Yorkers to decide whether I get a second chance or not, and I hope the answer's yes," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
After about a month of maybes, Weiner officially launched his comeback campaign with a video posted online late Tuesday, about two years after a series of tawdry tweets, and obfuscating explanations, capsized his promising congressional career.
Weiner, who ran for mayor in 2005 and nearly did in 2009, is getting into the race to succeed three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg less than four months before the Democratic primary. He's arriving with a $4.8 million campaign war chest and possibly $1 million more in public matching money, a resume that includes seven terms in Congress, polls showing him ahead of all but one other Democrat and certainly no end of name recognition.
His participation makes a Democratic primary runoff more likely, and many political observers feel he could at least get to the second round. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found Weiner getting 15 percent of the Democratic primary vote, behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at 25 percent.
Elizabeth Fasolino, for one, is ready to give Weiner a chance to win her vote.
"He's made atonement," the Manhattanite said Wednesday. "I think he has the best interest of New York City voters in mind, the middle class especially."
But 49 percent of city voters in the Quinnipiac poll said Weiner shouldn't even run.
"If you're so indiscreet in your personal life, what are you going to be in your political life?" city resident Gale Sorel said Wednesday.
Weiner said he realizes that "this is going to be a difficult slog, and I'm going to have to have a lot of difficult conversations with people along the way."
Even if some won't consider giving him their vote, he said, "I hope at least some of the ideas penetrate, and it changes some of the conversations," said Weiner, who planned to greet commuters at a subway station and participate in a candidate forum Thursday.
He's positioning himself as a champion for the middle class and those working to get there. His proposals range from creating a city-run, single-payer health system for the uninsured — he'd use Medicaid money to pay for it — to sending vans to shopping centers so business owners needn't trek to city offices to contest fines.
Some opponents said they welcomed him to the race, including Democratic former City Comptroller William Thompson, whose campaign used Weiner's arrival as a jumping-off point for a fundraising email. Former White House official Aldolfo Carrion Jr., who's unaffiliated with any party but secured the Independence Party's ballot line, said he'll be "ready for him in November" if Weiner makes it to the general election.
Democratic former City Councilman Sal Albanese and Republican John Catsimatidis both rapped Weiner as a "career politician." Republican George McDonald complained that by seeking matching funds, Weiner "wants to rehab his tarnished reputation at the expense of taxpayers."
Quinn said Weiner's run "doesn't change my perspective or plan in this race at all."
Weiner was known in Washington as an energetic, skilled politician and a sharp Democratic voice, ready to fight for the party's views whether on the House floor or cable TV.
His downfall unfolded after a photo of a man's bulging, underwear-clad groin appeared on Weiner's Twitter account in 2011. He initially claimed his account had been hacked. But after more photos emerged, including one of him bare-chested in his congressional office, the married congressman eventually owned up to exchanging racy messages with several women, saying he'd never met any of them. He soon resigned.
He has said he shouldn't have lied but wanted to keep the truth from his then-pregnant wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Abedin has said she has forgiven him, a message reified in a campaign announcement video that opened with the two feeding their toddler son, Jordan.
For Weiner's campaign, it's key to "be extremely honest and demonstrate that the most important person in his life has forgiven him," in the hopes that voters will also, Pace University political scientist Gregory Julian said.
Weiner's announcement follows another high-profile story of rapid political redemption: Former Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, whose extramarital affair derailed his political career in 2009, returned to Congress last week.
Since leaving office, Weiner has put his government experience to work as a consultant for various companies.
Weiner's Democratic opponents also include Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu and the Rev. Erick Salgado. Republican contenders include former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota; billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis and George McDonald, the head of a nonprofit that helps the homeless.
Associated Press video journalist Joseph Frederick and radio correspondent Julie Walker contributed to this report.
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