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Mayor Weiner? Sexting congressman enters race to lead New York City

Published time: May 22, 2013 16:30
Anthony Weiner.(Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)

Anthony Weiner.(Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)

Anthony Weiner, the former United States congressman who resigned two years ago amid a media-catching sexting scandal, is officially running for mayor of New York City.

Weiner, 48, announced in a YouTube video late Tuesday that he’ll be running in the New York mayoral race this November.

The long-time member of the US House of Representatives was rumored in recent weeks to be weighing a bid for the Democratic Party’s nod in this fall’s race, which will mark the first time since 2001 that incumbent Michael Bloomberg will be ineligible to run for the office of mayor due to term restraints.

Weiner previously served as a congressional Democrat in the House for the ninth district of New York, a region composed entirely of his native Brooklyn. After a 12-year run in the House, however, Weiner walked away from office in June 2011 after admitting to sending inappropriate images to young women while married to his wife, Huma Abedin.

After conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart published lewd photos the lawmaker was alleged to have sent from cell phone, a sexting scandal dubbed “Weinergate” by the mainstream media propelled the congressman into the national spotlight. Weiner initially declined the accusations that he sent the images, only to eventually come clean and walk away from office shortly after.

Photo from twitter.com user @anthonyweiner

In a YouTube video released this week, Weiner apologized for his past conduct and asked for another opportunity at elected office from his longtime constituents.

"I made some big mistakes, and I know I let a lot of people down, but I also learned some tough lessons," Weiner said. "I'm running for mayor because I've been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life. And I hope I get a second chance."

We love this city,” adds his wife Abedin. “And no one will work harder to make it better than Anthony.”

With the tossing of Weiner’s hat into the ring, the once-popular liberal lawmaker will have to compete with Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, 2009 mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson and others for the Democratic Party’s nomination. The former chairman of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the one-time director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs are among a handful of candidates who have confirmed they’ll seek the Republican Party’s nod. The last time a Democratic served as mayor of New York was 1993.

Rumors of Weiner’s return to politics have amounted in recent weeks following a profile in the New York Times last month. But even after appealing to New Yorkers through pleas in that paper and elsewhere, Weiner faces an uphill battle in seeking the city’s top position two years after he left the House with his tail between his legs.

The results of a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found Weiner grabbing only 15 percent of New York democrats to frontrunner Quinn’s 25 percent. One month earlier, a NBC New York/Marist poll determined that less than half of the city’s Democrats would even consider voting for Weiner in a mayoral race.

"I think that is going to be up to the people of the city of New York as they judge all of us," Thompson, the 2009 Democratic nominee who previously served as Comptroller, told WNYC.

"I agree with Billy," added Quinn. "That's not a question for any of us to answer, it's a question for the voters to answer. But what I think the voters are really concerned about is making sure that the next mayor isn't someone who's just going to make promises, is somebody who's got a record during their career in government or the private sector of actually delivering for New Yorkers."

According to Weiner, he’s already done as much. Despite his career being put on pause due to 2011’s scandal, he stands by his accomplishments in the House and as New York City council member from 1992 through 1998. In his campaign video, Weiner said he secured one billion dollars as congressman to hire more New York City police officers and also worked to help 9/11 first responders receive adequate health benefits.

Anybody who underestimates Anthony Weiner’s ambition is a fool. And anybody who underestimates his ability as a candidate is a fool,” retired Hunter College political science professor Kenneth Sherrill told the Associated Press. But “we’re going to see, basically, if Weiner can take hits as well as he can dish them out.”

In kick-starting his campaign, Weiner published on Wednesday his “64 Ideas to Keep New York the Capital of the Middle Class,” a blueprint that calls for, among other items, bringing more jobs to the city, reversing the trend of surging housing prices and bringing affordable health care to 1.2 million New Yorkers who are currently without insurance.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s another thing that might help Weiner win the votes of New Yorkers: he currently has over $5.1 million cash in the bank that could be used towards his campaign, second only to Quinn’s $7 million.