Anthony Weiner courts NYC voters: ‘It’s a second-chance city, man!’

Liz Goodwin
The Ticket

Mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner made his first appearance on Thursday since declaring his candidacy, apologizing again for his bizarre, Internet-only infidelity scandal that forced him out of Congress nearly two years ago.

"There may be people who will never vote for me, and I respect that," Weiner told the phalanx of reporters who surrounded him outside a crowded Harlem subway stop. "If citizens want to talk to me about my personal failings, that's their right. I certainly will apologize."

Jason Rolom, a 31-year-old construction worker who lives in Harlem, was not one of those voters. Rolom posed for a photo with Weiner while on his way to work. "I know from the past that he had that scandal, but now he's here to help so I'm going to give him a shot," Rolom said. "Sometimes you've got to let go of the past."

Another man shook Weiner's hand on his way to the subway and exclaimed, "It's a second-chance city, man!"

Weiner, hands on his hips and smartphone strapped to his belt, told reporters he's "encouraged" by how willing voters have seemed to give him a second chance. His fellow politicians—and New York City's unforgiving tabloids—have so far seemed less receptive to his comeback attempt, however.

Sen. Charles Schumer, once Weiner's political ally and mentor, has stayed quiet on the announcement. "Shame on us," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the possibility that voters will put Weiner in office again. "I'm not asking people for endorsements," Weiner said on Thursday, adding that he wanted to prove himself.

Weiner announced his candidacy in a video posted on Wednesday to his website, saying he would attempt a political comeback for the first time since it was made public that he sent lewd photos to an unknown number of women over the Internet while serving in Congress. The announcement video appears to have been posted earlier than he intended, as it was removed for a while after it first appeared. Weiner also did not emerge from his apartment on Wednesday to address his announcement, another unusual feature of his mayoral campaign rollout. Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Weiner's wife, appears in the video.

Despite the drama and scandal surrounding him, a recent poll shows Weiner is running second in the crowded race so far, after City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is widely expected to land Mayor Mike Bloomberg's endorsement. (One Harlem voter shook Weiner's hand and said he'd rather support him than "a woman." Weiner said he hoped he would vote for him for other reasons.)

The tabloids' love of his scandal has certainly boosted his name recognition in the city. Over the past two years, the New York Post has run nearly every single possible pun on the former congressman's unfortunate surname ("Weiner Roast," "Weiner Exposed," "Hard Time," "Fall on Your Sword, Weiner"). On Thursday, the more liberal Daily News jumped in, running an insert cover on Weiner's mayoral bid that exclaimed "HE'S GOT SOME BALLS." (A reporter brandished the headline at Weiner on Thursday morning, asking him how it made him feel.)

When Weiner resigned in 2011, the hard-charging congressman and liberal attack dog said he would seek "treatment," which apparently amounted to a three-day rehab stint in Texas. According to a recent profile in the New York Times Magazine, Weiner has spent "much of his time within a five-block radius of his apartment" on Park Avenue South, caring for his young son and plotting his next political move.

Weiner told the magazine why he thought the scandal—which involved no actual sex, just flirtatious messages and photos—exploded into such a national sensation. “My last name; the fact that I was this combative congressman; the fact that there were pictures involved; the fact that it was a slow news period; the fact that I was an idiot about it; the fact that, while I was still lying about it, I dug myself in deeper by getting beefy with every reporter," Weiner said. "But it was also this notion of how much attention our relationship had gotten, this kind of Camelot feel to it. It turned out to make it harder on both of us, and it made the explosion that much bigger.”

Quinn, for her part, said she's not worried about the late entrant to the contest. “I don’t care who enters the race,” Quinn told Crain's New York on Wednesday when asked about Weiner's announcement. “Why should I talk about anyone but myself?”