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Despite Spitzer, Brooklyn pols solidly back Stringer

Elliot Spitzer walks through Union Square while he tries to collect signatures for his run for New York City Comptroller. AP photo/Seth Wenig

As has been widely reported, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer jumped back into the high-profile world of politics Monday after his decision to run for the New York City comptroller's office, years after he was caught in a prostitution scandal that culminated in one of politics' steepest falls from power.

However, Brooklyn’s major elected officials have already backed his main rival, the man who until now was the only declared Democratic candidate for comptroller, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

Indeed, in April, Brooklyn Congresspersons Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries, as well as Borough President Marty Markowitz, gathered on the steps of Borough Hall to endorse Stringer.

At the time, Markowitz said, "Throughout Scott's distinguished career, he's clearly proven that he is an excellent leader, compassionate, and truly dedicated to improving the lives of all New Yorkers."

Yesterday, according to the Daily News, state Senator Dan Squadron (D-Downtown Brooklyn/Lower Manhattan) and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a Park Slope resident and mayoral hopeful, both reiterated their support of Stringer.

According to the Daily News, Squadron, who is running for public advocate, said, “I proudly reiterate my support for Scott Stringer for Comptroller. Scott's record of reform and results, and his vision for the job of Comptroller, make him the best candidate, whether he has no opponents or 10.”

Former City Councilman and mayoral hopeful Sal Albanese, however, said, "We have had one person running for comptroller. Even if he is the smartest guy in the world, it is bad for democracy and bad for New Yorkers to elect anyone without a real race. Eliot Spitzer is eminently qualified for the job, so I say we give him a fair hearing and let the voters make their choice in September."
 
Spitzer’s first public campaign appearance turned into a chaotic scrum of scores of journalists outside a Manhattan subway station, with a heckler and some Spitzer supporters trading shouts as the candidate talked up his record in office — and declined to get into specifics about the scandal that brought his career to a screeching stop.

"What I'm looking for is a chance to be heard. I want the voters to listen to what I've done, look at the record that I developed as attorney general, as an assistant district attorney, as governor, and say, 'This guy understood the public interest,'" Spitzer said.

"People have forgiveness in their hearts. Whether that forgiveness extends to me" remains to be seen, he acknowledged before collecting several petition signatures from voters as reporters trailed him through a park and to a taxi.

In a sign of the comedic fodder his candidacy is sure to generate, Spitzer spoke over shouts from Joey Boots, a frequent caller to "The Howard Stern Show."

"You betrayed your constituents, your family, your wife. You betrayed everybody," he yelled in one of his more publishable comments.

Others yelled back with messages of encouragement.

"Everyone makes mistakes," said Cleonie Sinclair, a medical-records worker in her 50s who said she came across the crowd on her lunch break and stopped to meet Spitzer, who, she thought, was a good governor who deserves a second chance at public office.

Siby Vadakkekara, 36, a merchandising director, wasn't so sure.

"I don't know that I would support him," she said. "I just think that there's a certain level of ethics that a politician should have. I think he really disappointed a lot of people."

Returning to public service after more than five years in the political wilderness was difficult for Spitzer, who never hid from the spotlight and even joked about his mistakes on camera and at political events. His wife, Silda, who stood shaken up at Spitzer's side during his resignation speech, an image that was carried globally, also returned to life in the public eye. She began attending charity fundraisers months after the scandal.

Spitzer does bring his own comeback experience. In 1994, he was trounced while seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, then drove thousands of miles around the state to visit local political leaders and influential groups en route to winning the office in 1998. He transformed the position and became known as the sheriff of Wall Street, the kind of change he aims to bring to the comptroller's office.

"I love public service," Spitzer said in an interview. "This is a great job that has untapped potential, just as I saw the attorney general's office and said we could do more. I think more can be done as city comptroller."

He said he would focus on public policy discussions, the city budget and corporate governance, much as he did as attorney general for two terms before he was elected governor in 2006. He wrote a book on improving the governance of corporations, which is due out in a week.

The key to such improvement comes from within, as a major shareholder, Spitzer said. The city pension fund, which the comptroller oversees, is a major investor in many of the world's biggest companies.

"You can't regulate or prosecute your way to governing corporations better," he said Monday.

He said he would use the city pension's shareholder stakes to force changes in how corporations operate. He said he will also use the comptroller's voice "not just for auditing the city budget, but to make sure the politics are working, not just that the paper clips are counted."

"There is also the oversight role in the budget, which his critically important," Spitzer said. "We have a lot of tough decisions to make."

He said he has no plans for office beyond city comptroller.

July 9, 2013 - 8:00am


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