After Scandal, Eliot Spitzer Dives Back Into Politics

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is running for public office again. Five years after resigning in the midst of a prostitution scandal, Spitzer will ask voters to make him New York City's comptroller this fall.

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Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has become the latest politician to ask voters for a second chance. Five years after resigning amid a prostitution scandal, Spitzer is running for public office again, this time to be New York City comptroller.

As NPR's Joel Rose reports, some voters seem willing to listen.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: If Eliot Spitzer was looking for a quiet reentry into New York politics, it didn't quite work out that way.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

ELIOT SPITZER: This is a...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Did you leave your black socks on?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We love you.

ROSE: As soon as Spitzer showed up for public periods at Union Square, he was surrounded by a crush of reporters, photographers, hecklers, cameramen, and just random people trying to get a glimpse of the former governor.

SPITZER: I've been in politics for a long time. I've seen everything. This is New York - you don't get into this fray if you don't know this is going to happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)

ROSE: This kind of attention is nothing new for Spitzer, who resigned from the governor's office in disgrace five years ago, after he was caught patronizing a high-priced prostitution ring. Since then, Spitzer has been in the public eye as a commentator and TV host. But this is the first time he's asking voters to trust him again.

SPITZER: Because they will look at the substantive record of what I did as attorney general, what I did as governor, what I did as a prosecutor. They will say this guy understands the public interest, from Wall Street to the environment, to education, community gardens. Over and over again, we have been there standing for the public. And I have asked forgiveness and I will ask them to consider me.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)

ROSE: The man who was known as the Sheriff of Wall Street, when he was attorney general, is now running for the relatively unglamorous position of New York City comptroller. Spitzer says he wants to use the job to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent effectively and to wield the power of the city's pension investment to influence corporate governance.

Spitzer's latest pitch seems to be working, at least on some New York voters like Jose Guzman of the Bronx and Michael Korn(ph) of Brooklyn.

JOSE GUZMAN: From my point of view, he was doing a bang up job in office. He got his just desserts. You know, he fell from grace. And like everything else in our society, we forgive people who fall from grace.

MICHAEL KORN: At first blush, I like the guy. But let's see. And I say it's policy, what's coming out of his mouth. I just want to know what his policy positions are - that's what matters to me.

ROSE: But not all New York City voters are ready to just forgive and forget.

THALIA EISENBERG: No, I don't trust him.

ROSE: Thalia Eisenberg(ph), of Manhattan, says Spitzer's personal mistakes should disqualify him from holding elected office again.

EISENBERG: I think as a public official he should be held to a high standard. People are watching them, kids are watching him, and how can you respect that? He lacks integrity.

ROSE: Whatever voters think of him, Spitzer has name recognition, which could help in his Democratic primary matchup against Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer. Spitzer insists his run for comptroller has nothing to do with the example of Anthony Wiener - another politician who's comeback from a sex scandal to run a strong citywide campaign, in that case for mayor of New York. But the two men could easily find themselves on the same ballot this fall.

Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

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