NEW YORK—Eliot Spitzer made his first appearance since announcing his run for candidacy for comptroller on Monday in Union Square, resulting in a media circus not seen since Anthony Weiner entered the mayoral race in May.
Media outlets from across the city gathered at Union Square for a chance to interview Spitzer for the first time Sunday evening.
When he finally appeared, a gaggle of media crowded around the former governor, who resigned in 2008 after articles surfaced he was a client of an escort service, Emperors Club VIP.
Spitzer said he went for a run over the weekend and decided to get into the race. Entering the race at this late date, he must collect at least 3,750 signatures from registered voters by Thursday to get his name on the ballot for the Democratic nomination, where he will face current front-runner Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
“It was a moment when I was sitting there saying, ‘I want to serve.’ I think the public is willing to give me a second shot,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer answered questions for over an hour, in a suit and tie, dripping with sweat as the temperatures hovered in the upper 80s. Hecklers shouted at him for cheating on his wife, but Spitzer paid no attention.
“I have skin as thick as a rhinoceros. That is what you need in this town,” Spitzer said with a laugh.
Others came up and congratulated him on his work as New York state attorney general from 1999 to 2006.
“Any perfect person, raise your hand,” Cleonie Simplair, of Brooklyn said during the press conference. She said she would vote for Spitzer as comptroller. “He was a good governor; as attorney general he has done a lot for the community as well. I can’t just take one mistake he made and turn it against him because we all make mistakes.”
The media circus drew plenty of onlookers in bustling Union Square.
Silvana Goberdhan-Vigle, 22, of Oxford, England, knew of Spitzer and his transgressions. She was surprised he was running for office again, saying she expects candidates to have good moral fiber.
Still, voters seem to be in a forgiving mood this year, choosing to remember what candidates have done in office before, rather than focusing on the scandal. Perhaps it is a sign of the times.
“In this country, that sort of crime doesn’t last very long,” said Bill Kelsey, 36, of Jersey City. “Apparently the United States doesn’t figure that to be a very bad crime. People just hold them to a different standard then their spouse I guess.”
Kelsey said he was unsure he would vote for Spitzer if he lived in New York City, but spoke positively about Spitzer’s time in office before the scandal.
“The guy was talented. He knew what he was doing,” said Kelsey.
Spitzer believes that after five years, voters can look past the splashy headlines his sex scandal produced, and see his potential.
“I think the public will look at my record as attorney general, as governor, as a prosecutor in the D.A.’s office, my writing, my teaching, and perhaps give me an opportunity to serve once again,” Spitzer said.
“If I am afforded that opportunity it would be a great honor.”