Scandal-plagued former Democratic congressman and failed New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s political career may be over – but that doesn’t mean he’ll stay out of the spotlight forever.
The Democrat, whose mayoral campaign imploded in 2013 following revelations that he had continued to send racy texts to women even after he resigned from Congress over similar behavior via Twitter in 2011, isn’t shying away from making his views known.
Since the beginning of the year, he’s weighed in on a slew of hot-button issues – including the rocky relationship between City Hall and the police, winter storm Juno, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to connect LaGuardia Airport to New York City’s public transit system. It’s not just New York-centric either; Weiner urged President Obama to address the country’s marijuana policy during the State of the Union address. And in the fall, he didn’t shy away from criticizing progressive darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for skewering former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for taking a job on Wall Street after leaving Congress.
In the past few days, he’s used the hashtag #KeysToTheCity seven times, perhaps a not-so-subtle nod to the name of a blueprint he released in the lead-up to his mayoral run to keep the Big Apple “the capital for the middle class.”
Weiner, 50, is speaking out on a number of platforms – including, yes, Twitter – but also penning op-eds for Business Insider, the New York Daily News and appearing on New York 1’s "Wise Guys."
The question begs: Why is Weiner, who was very publicly humiliated over his past indiscretions, seemingly so willing to still put himself out there and inject himself into the public conversation over and over again?
"In politics you never say never, and he’s been on the stage before ... once you breathe in that rarified air, you need more of it."'
“In politics you never say never, and he’s been on the stage before. He was a couple steps away from being mayor of the city. And once you breathe in that rarified air, you need more of it,” said George Arzt, the New York-based Democratic political consultant who once served as spokesman for the late former Mayor Ed Koch. “I think that his misdeeds put him through a very painful period both publicly and privately and that he hopes to eventually erase all of that by taking some public position.”
Weiner declined to be interviewed for this piece. Yet he told Politico last year that “realistically, my political career is probably over,” adding “The only job I ever wanted more than Congress was mayor and I don’t think that either of those two jobs are going to be available. So it’s not like ‘Ok, how do I get back in?’ I’m not thinking that anymore. I think I kind of took my stab at that.”
At the time, Weiner said he was doing some consulting work and there was talk that the ex-congressman was considering opening a non-profit restaurant in the Rockaways neighborhood in Queens.
Even if Weiner remains out of office, his family will likely remain under the spotlight. His wife, Huma Abedin, is a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Abedin is expected to play a critical role during a presumed campaign.
Not all of Weiner’s public remarks have been policy-oriented – especially on Twitter, to his nearly 25,000 followers. He’s funny, talking about sports, and what he’s up to. “Baking some bread for the Super Bowl. #Yeastmode,” he tweeted on Thursday. During this week’s winter storm, he wrote, “There better be some mad surge pricing for anyone delivering your food tonight people” and “To tourists buying a street pretzel today, please do your part and get extra salt.”
It’s the same wit and humor that many liked about the lawmaker -- once considered a rising star in the Democratic Party -- when he was in office.
“The reason why people are interesting in hearing what he has to say is that he’s very smart, quick and has humor and insight,” said Douglas Muzzio, a longtime New York political analyst and professor at Baruch College. “Can he overcome his multiple indiscretions? I don’t know, but sometimes time does mitigate what looks like a disaster. He wants to get back in the game. Maybe he doesn’t want to be an elected official but something like a television personality.”
In the meantime, said Muzzio, “There’s a craving for the limelight. There’s a craving for recognition.”