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Eliot Spitzer running for NYC comptroller

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer addresses an

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer addresses an audience during a Harvard University ethics forum on the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass. (Nov. 12, 2009) Credit: AP

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in shame five years ago after being embroiled in a prostitution scandal, will run for New York City comptroller, his spokeswoman said Sunday night.

Spitzer, a Democrat, stepped down from office on March 17, 2008, after reports surfaced that he paid for the services of a high-end prostitution ring.

He's the second high-profile New York politician to seek a comeback this year after a sex scandal. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, now a leading contender in the New York City mayor's race, resigned from the House of Representatives in 2011 after admitting he sent explicit photos of himself to women using Twitter and Facebook.

In a Twitter message announcing his campaign Sunday night, Spitzer, 54, wrote: "I have looked at this race and decided that now is not the time to sit on the sidelines or go along to get along."

Earlier Sunday, he told The New York Times, which first reported the story, that he was "hopeful there will be forgiveness; I am asking for it."

Spitzer will finance his campaign from his own fortune and not take part in the city's public financing system, according to the Times.

Spitzer asked for forgiveness when he resigned in 2008 and vowed to repair his personal life. He then left public life, but it was not too long before rumblings of his return to politics began. Four years ago, his name was mentioned as a potential candidate for the same comptroller's seat.

He chose instead to enter broadcasting. In 2010, he joined CNN as a political talk show host and in 2012 went to Current TV. He left that social issues channel in January.

Spitzer, a former attorney general, must collect at least 3,750 signatures from registered voters by Thursday to get onto the primary ballot.

Stringer has been front-runner

Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, a Democrat, had been seen as the front-runner in the primary race for comptroller. In a Twitter posting Sunday night, campaign manager Sascha Owen said Stringer "has a proven record of results & integrity + entered race to help NY's middle class regain footing . . . By contrast, Spitzer will spurn campaign finance program to buy personal redemption with his family fortune. The voters will decide."

In a statement released after Spitzer announced his plans, City Council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn said Stringer "has been an exceptional borough president with the highest ethical standards. He has my full support and I will do whatever I can to help him become the next comptroller of the City of New York."

Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio also released a statement Sunday night backing Stringer's campaign. "Scott Stringer is the progressive reformer we need as NYC comptroller," de Blasio's statement read.

Along with Stringer, Spitzer will face an unconventional opponent on the campaign trail. Kristin Davis came to prominence after she claimed to be the madam who provided Spitzer with prostitutes, though that has never been proved. She is running on the Libertarian Party ticket. She ran for governor on the Anti-Prohibition Party line in 2010.

A controversial governor

Even before his public downfall, the hard-charging Spitzer's 14 1/2 months as governor were marked by controversy and repeated clashes with the state legislature, particularly Senate Republicans. They butted heads over the budget, driver's licenses for immigrants here illegally, abortion and other issues.

Still, Spitzer pushed through an ethics reform bill and overhaul of how public schools are funded in his first months in office before lawmakers scuttled his agenda.

His brash style turned off some politicians. Spitzer came to the Executive Mansion in 2007 after two terms as state attorney general. Dubbed the "Sheriff of Wall Street," Spitzer used a state law, the Martin Act, to prosecute wrongdoing by investment bankers and stock analysts. Before seeking public office, Spitzer had worked as a lawyer in private practice and in the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Spitzer bucked the Democratic Party establishment when he first ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general. But his father's real estate fortune powered that and other campaigns. This wealth gave Spitzer an independence from the party that other candidates could ill afford.

Spitzer was born in the Bronx. He graduated from Horace Mann School, Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He met his wife, Silda Wall, in law school. They have three daughters.

After his downfall, Spitzer also wrote opinion pieces for Slate magazine and assumed an increased role in his family's real estate holdings. Spitzer's father, Bernard, who founded the company, suffers from Parkinson's disease.

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