NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer is asking the public for a second chance as he starts collecting thousands of signatures needed to enter the race for New York City comptroller, years after he was caught in a prostitution scandal that culminated in one of politics’ steepest falls from power.
Spitzer, a Democrat, met with voters in Union Square on Monday to launch his comeback attempt. Candidates for citywide offices like comptroller have to have 3,750 signatures from registered voters in their party by Thursday.
“The happiest years of my life professionally were as attorney general, as governor, as a prosecutor and I’d like to go back to public service,” he told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.
As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell and CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported, the former governor’s return to the campaign trail was not without hecklers, shouting things such as the following:
“Spitzer, you cheated on your wife!”
“You betrayed your constituents. You abandoned your wife. You betrayed everybody!”
“This is about power. You just want power, man. If you want public service go volunteer somewhere!”
“Did you leave your black socks on?”
Spitzer appeared to take it in stride, as if he expected it.
“This is what I look forward to — dealing with the public,” said Spitzer. “This is New York. You know when we go to a ballpark we heckle the pitcher who throws one bad pitch. We have a little bit of the heckler in each one of us. At a certain point it passes the line of decorum, but this is New York. This is politics. I’m game for it. I got skin as thick as a rhinoceros so I’m ready for anything.”
Kramer then asked Spitzer, “You threw one bad pitch. Is it one bad pitch?”
To which Spitzer replied, “I said the pitcher throws a lot. I’m sure I threw more than one, trust me. Nobody throws a perfect game, trust me. I’ve thrown a couple no-hitters. I’ve thrown some doozies on the other side.”
As the former governor answered questions in Union Square, he was surrounded by a mob of 50 members of the media.
“I love the maelstrom, I love the screaming, I love the shouting. But what I love most of all is doing things for the public,” the disgraced former governor said.
He said he thinks voters will look past his prostitution scandal.
“Because they will look at the substantive record of what I did as attorney general, what I did as governor, what I did as a prosecutor,” said Spitzer.
Watch CBS 2’s Full Interview With Spitzer Below:
Former New York State Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who took over as governor when Spitzer resigned amid scandal, weighed in on Spitzer’s new bid for office on Monday afternoon but withheld any type of endorsement.
“I think it would be good for New York City whichever of the candidates who’s running for comptroller wins. Scott Stringer, the [Manhattan] borough president, has been outstanding as an assemblyman and a borough president. Eliot Spitzer never really got a chance as governor but as attorney general showed that he wasn’t afraid to tax sacred cows and he wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is, which is what you really need from a comptroller,” Paterson told WCBS 880. “This is the person that’s looking after the city’s revenues, its currency, its economic situation. And if someone just sits there idly and lets things go by, it’s actually dangerous. It’s sort of the check and balance on the mayor and the city council so it’s an important position.”
The former governor said with Spitzer joining the campaign, there will be a real race for the Democratic nomination for city comptroller, and noted that Spitzer still has connections in the political arena.
“I don’t think he will have to knock on doors for money,” said Paterson.