Spitzer tells Leno he cares about public service
This publicity image released by NBC shows former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, left, talking with host Jay Leno during a taping of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Friday, July 12, 2013, in Burbank, Calif. Spitzer, who resigned as governor in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal, is now running for New York City comptroller. (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater
NEW YORK (AP) — Eliot Spitzer, whose 2008 resignation as New York's governor amid a prostitution scandal provided no shortage of fuel for gibes to late-night TV comics, ventured into the lion's den Friday, appearing on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Spitzer appeared on Leno's show in California less than 24 hours after a four-day flurry of canvassing for 3,750 valid petitions to run for city comptroller — submitting over 27,000 petitions to the city Board of Elections late Thursday night ahead of a midnight deadline.
And Leno, who has poked at Spitzer's reentrance to New York City's politics since the former attorney general announced Sunday he was running to be the city's comptroller, asked him straight up: "Why enter at the 11th hour?"
Spitzer said that after all he'd done in the past five years he finally thought, "You know what, there's a position there, which I've written about, thought about, the Controller's position, from which I think I can actually serve," he said. "And I said to myself I want to contribute through public service."
Leno's show has provided a stage before for candidates launching unexpected campaigns: Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his ultimately successful run for California governor on Leno's set in 2003. The program also has been a memorable forum for public figures' atonement moments, as when actor Hugh Grant made his first TV appearance after he was arrested with a prostitute in 1995.
Spitzer's appearance came after his leading rival said earlier Friday he wouldn't challenge the tarnished ex-governor's petitions to run for city comptroller, leaving Spitzer's surprise comeback campaign a clearer path toward the Democratic primary this fall.
Other contenders or voters can contest a candidate's signatures for reasons ranging from an ambiguous address to a canvasser who's not registered in the candidate's party. But Democratic comptroller hopeful Scott Stringer, who was a heavy favorite in the comptroller's race before Spitzer got into it Monday, said he had no plans to contest Spitzer's signatures and would encourage supporters not to do so, either.
"I'm not someone who challenges petitions," Stringer, who is currently Manhattan's borough president, said while greeting voters Friday in downtown Brooklyn. "Let's get into the fight now."