Anthony Weiner, the former U.S. congressman who resigned two years ago over lewd online behavior and became the butt of late-night television jokes, said he’s joining the race for mayor of New York.
Weiner, 48, posted a video announcing his candidacy on a website today, weeks after telling the New York Times in an interview he was considering re-entering politics.
“Look, I made some big mistakes, and I know I let a lot of people down,” Weiner said in the video. “But I’ve also learned some tough lessons. And I hope I get a second chance to work for you.”
The Democrat, who served 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, joins a field of six seeking the party’s nomination in a Sept. 10 primary. His entry almost ensures no one will win the 40 percent needed to avoid a Sept. 24 runoff between the top two finishers.
Weiner holds $4.27 million from an aborted 2009 run for the Democratic mayoral nomination, and he’s reported $248,710 in donations of $175 or less, just $1,290 shy of the $250,000 threshold to qualify for 6-to-1 public matching funds. He needed to declare his candidacy by June 10 to be eligible for the money, according city Campaign Finance Board regulations.
Making the announcement through a video instead of a news conference allows Weiner to avoid insults and name-calling hurled at him at his June 2011 resignation announcement, said Joseph Mercurio, a New York-based political consultant and media adviser who isn’t involved in this year’s mayoral race.
“He’s been very bad at damage control and he’s created a lot of his own problems, leaving it up to his opponents, the press and late-night comics to create his image,” Mercurio said. “Rolling out his candidacy with a detailed biographical video is one way to start reversing that.”
Weiner is joining the race to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP. Term limits prevent the mayor from running again.
“I don’t have this burning, overriding desire to go out and run for office,” the Times quoted Weiner as saying. “To some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something.”
Weiner’s problems began May 27, 2011, when his official public Twitter account posted a close-up photograph of a man’s torso in gray boxer briefs. Weiner said his account had been hacked during a news conference at his Washington congressional office. His resignation came after he admitted at another news briefing that he had engaged in “inappropriate conversations” with six women over the previous three years, including by e-mail and telephone and on Facebook and Twitter.
After the Times article appeared, televised late-night jokes abounded.
“Believe me, he has thought long and hard about this,” Jay Leno said during a monologue hosting NBC’s “Tonight Show.”
Comic Jimmy Fallon, who followed Leno’s show on NBC, said: “If nothing else I’m sure that he’ll provide some stiff competition.”
The probability that Weiner would face heckling and insults may limit his campaigning to social and mass media rather than unstructured rallies and street appearances, Mercurio said.
“Coming in late gives him the advantage of not having been subjected to open forums, and I expect he’ll be appearing before groups in events over which he has more control,” Mercurio said. “He’ll have to weigh how much does he lose by not being somewhere versus how much he could lose by actually showing up.”
Weiner didn’t return an e-mailed request for comment, and a phone number for him has been disconnected. Daniel Kedem, a former aide with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who Politico reported was hired by Weiner as campaign manager, didn’t return e-mails or phone calls.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released today, Weiner ran second among Democratic candidates, even though the survey preceded his entry into the race. He was favored by 15 percent of 710 registered Democrats interviewed by telephone May 14-20.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn led with 25 percent. Other Democratic candidates in the poll included former Comptroller William Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio each tied at 10 percent; Comptroller John Liu with 6 percent; and former City Councilman Sal Albanese, 2 percent. Undecided voters made up 27 percent of respondents, and the survey’s margin of error was 3.7 percentage points. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 6-to-1 in New York City.
“This poll shows a runoff election is just about inevitable,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a City Hall interview today. “We just don’t know who will be in it.”
Weiner’s campaign treasury has returned $18,100 in donations since his resignation from Congress, including $4,950 each from real estate developer Peter Kalikow and his wife, Mary, whose money was returned in July 2011, according to city campaign-finance records.
Kalikow gave Weiner the money out of admiration for his support for Israel and requested the money be returned after Weiner resigned from Congress and didn’t appear a likely candidate for mayor in 2013, said Martin McLaughlin, Kalikow’s spokesman.
“Mr. Kalikow has also made it clear that he’s not going to give him money for the upcoming race,” McLaughlin said in an interview.
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