NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Eliot Spitzer’s quest for a political comeback was derailed Tuesday night, as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer defeated the former governor in New York City’s comptroller race.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Stringer had 52 percent of the vote, while Spitzer had 48 percent.
“This is a very proud night,” Stringer said. “The voters listened. We got out in the streets. We built a coalition.”
In his concession speech, Spitzer said he presumes Stringer will win the election when he faces Republican John Burnett on Nov. 5.
“I’ve been honored to serve,” Spitzer said. “I’ve been honored to be an assistant district attorney, attorney general, governor, serve the public in many and varied capacities. For me, politics was never a profession, it was a cause. It was a calling to serve and to try to fight for those issues that we believed in.”
Since Spitzer’s abrupt July decision to run, the two have been deadlocked in one of the fiercest political wrestling matches in the city this year.
Spitzer was seeking a comeback five years after resigning as governor and acknowledging he patronized call girls. Stringer was striving to capture a nomination he once expected to snag easily.
Exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research for The Associated Press and other news organizations showed the vote divided by race, with Spitzer leading among black voters by a wide margin and Stringer carrying the white vote by a similarly large spread, with Hispanics split about evenly between the two. The relative size of those groups could determine the outcome. The preliminary exit poll of 2,035 Democratic primary voters was conducted in a random sample of 40 precincts citywide.
“We always knew that this race was going to be very tight,” Spitzer campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan said Tuesday night.
Spitzer, who was never charged with any crime, asked voters to focus on his record as a hard-charging governor and state attorney general. He was dubbed “the sheriff of Wall Street” for his financial investigations.
That resonated with Paulette Esrig, 81, a retired schoolteacher who voted for him Tuesday at a precinct in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
“I picked him not because I approve of his personal life at all, but I felt he was well qualified,” she said.
But other voters said Spitzer’s past scandal drove them to pull levers for Stringer, even if they didn’t know much about him despite his 20 years as borough president and as a former state assemblyman.
“He’s not my favorite, but I think Spitzer is an abomination,” said Jullian Stark, 55, a college biology professor, who also voted in Chelsea.
Stringer said he’s mastered both fighting for causes and forging compromises during 20 years in public office.
And he has urged New Yorkers not to forgive or forget his opponent’s personal misdeeds.
“I didn’t resign in disgrace,” Stringer said at a candidate forum last week. Earlier, his campaign sent voters a mailer highlighting Spitzer’s involvement with prostitutes and featuring a photo of prison bars.
“If this public wants someone who makes a difference, they know who they’re going to vote for,” Spitzer responded at the forum, organized by the Council of Urban Professionals, a networking group. Spitzer’s aides had sent reporters emails mocking Stringer for proclaiming a Justin Bieber appreciation day last year.
Spitzer had double-digit leads in some polls as recently as two weeks ago. But polls Sunday and Monday variously showed the candidates about even or Stringer slightly ahead.
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