Comptroller Spitzer? Once-disgraced governor will run for NYC office

Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer speaks at the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit in 2010.
Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer speaks at the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit in 2010.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer plans to run for the New York City office of comptroller, NBC News has confirmed.

Spitzer, 54, is the latest in a long stream of scandalized politicians seeking redemption and a return to public office—the second on this year’s New York City ballot alone.

A former attorney general known for being a Wall Street watchdog and  in his own words a “steamroller,” Spitzer resigned in 2008 after reports surfaced that he had patronized a high-end prostitution group, Emperors Club VIP. No charges were ever brought against him.

“I’m hopeful there will be forgiveness, I am asking for it,” he said in a telephone interview to The New York Times Sunday night. He plans to forgo the city’s public campaign funding and finance the campaign himself. He will need to garner 3,750 signatures by September in order to get on the ballot.

If he makes it on the ballot, Spitzer will arguably have the best name recognition on a ballot of otherwise local names: the top contender is Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who has already earned the endorsement of many in the New York City mayoral race in the hours since Spitzer’s announcement.

Spitzer will be the “most qualified comptroller candidate this city has had in a very long time and people will vote for him,” Politico’s Maggie Haberman said on Monday’s Morning Joe.

New York City’s comptroller is “a pretty sleepy, largely overlooked job outside of New York City,” explained Michael Barbaro, the New York Times reporter who broke the news of Spitzer’s run. But the former governor has big plans for it.

“He has fully envisioned one of the most robust comptroller offices anyone’s ever heard of–one that really ventures into virgin territory,” Barbaro continued.

While New York City comptrollers traditionally oversee city spending, Spitzer sees a role that could inquire into the efficiency and success of far more, such as day-to-day educational policy and graduation rates, Barbaro said.

“If you are the next mayor of New York City, you do not want this kind of activist comptroller,” Barbaro said. “It’s already an adversarial role by definition; imagine a more adversarial comptroller than Eliot Spitzer.”

If elected comptroller, Spitzer could end up head to head with another scandal-ridden politician, Anthony Weiner, who is in the lead in the race to be New York City’s next mayor. Weiner resigned from Congress after news of a sexual Twitter exchange with a fan broke. Despite the inevitable comparisons, Barbaro argued the pair are actually quite different: “[Spitzer’s] resume is longer, arguably; his transgressions are deeper.”

The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker, Spitzer’s former cohost on CNN’s former show Parker Spitzer, fell short of endorsing her former coworker—remarking on his aggressive style that earned him many enemies as attorney general—but noted his charisma.

“He can be beguiling and extremely charming,” she said. “But as he described himself, he can also be a steamroller. He has some powerful enemies in this town. I’ll tell you something, I used to walk down the street with him frequently and people would race to speak to him. Cab drivers would cross four lanes of traffic and slam on breaks to say ‘good morning, governor.’ There are a lot of people who think highly of him.”

Sascha Owen the campaign manager for Spitzer’s biggest opponent, Stringer, slammed Spitzer for throwing his name into the race.

“Spitzer is going to spurn the campaign finance program to try and buy personal redemption with his family fortune,” he said in a statement. “The voters will decide.”

Comptroller Spitzer? Once-disgraced governor will run for NYC office