NEW YORK—It’s unclear if New Yorkers will be willing to grant Eliot Spitzer the political redemption he is seeking five years after a prostitution scandal forced him from office. But the former governor’s surprise announcement that he’ll run for New York City comptroller could potentially boost at least one candidate on the ballot this fall: mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn.
Quinn, who is speaker of the City Council, had been the frontrunner to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg in November, but she has seen her lead in the race vanish amid a last-minute bid by former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who, like Spitzer, has asked the public for a second chance after a sexting scandal forced him out of Congress.
For weeks, Quinn has danced around the question of whether Weiner’s lapse should be an issue in the race--even as polls show it is one of his clear political liabilities. But Spitzer’s surprise entrance back into the political arena has apparently given Quinn the pass she was looking for to bring up Weiner’s personal drama and imply that it disqualifies him to be the city’s top elected leader.
Twice in the last two days, Quinn has linked Weiner with Spitzer—most recently in a Tuesday afternoon news conference at City Hall, where, standing with several female City Council members, she linked Weiner to Spitzer and argued that neither man has merited another chance.
“Running for office is really serious and important, and I, as much as anybody else, believe in second chances. None of us are perfect. But in every way, particularly in elected life, you need to earn a second chance,” Quinn told reporters. “So the question is what have Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer done to earn that second chance? What have they done with their time since their fall from grace that would earn this second chance? I would say not very much.”
Asked what she believed they could have done, Quinn replied that it was about “how you spend your time both in elected office and in your time since your fall from grace.”
“Have you been engaged in efforts to make people’s lives better? Have you been of service to the city? When you were in elected office, did you pass legislation that helped people?” Quinn said. “Did you deliver in real ways that made people’s lives better? That’s the question. And I don’t think the record before or after shows that.”
A spokeswoman for Weiner did not respond to a request for comment.
But Quinn has tried to have it both ways, suggesting that debate over Weiner’s personal shortcomings was less important than talking about “the future of New York City”— which she described as the key issue of the mayoral race.
Yet at the same time, her press conference was clearly aimed at sending the message that she’s the candidate for women—especially women who remain incensed at what Weiner and Spitzer did. Again and again, Quinn beamed as her female City Council colleagues came forward to announce they were supporting her campaign, in part, because of how much she had done for women in the city—an issue the mayoral hopeful herself raised when speaking to reporters and later in a fundraising email to supporters, in which her campaign cited Spitzer and Weiner and urged women to get behind Quinn's campaign.
“Women deserve elected officials who have dedicated… their lives to serving them, making their lives better, who have conducted themselves in honest selfless ways,” Quinn declared. “So I go back to my point before, what have these two men done since their fall from grace to make it clear to women—and men, for that matter-- that their selfish dishonest ways are behind them?”
Her record, Quinn insisted, was unmatched upon her mayoral rivals. And as she ticked off the bills she had helped pass in the City Council—including bills protecting abortion rights and efforts to curb domestic violence—her female colleagues cheered.
“Anthony Weiner in Congress passed one bill at the request of a campaign supporter,” Quinn said. “That’s not delivering results for New Yorkers. My record is delivering results.”