Throwing his hat back in the ring, 54-year-old former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced July 7 that he would run for New York City Comptroller against his former madame Kristen Davis, among others, raising eyebrows of just how far the former governor can come after resigning his office in total disgrace March 17, 2008. Spitzer went kicking-and-screaming under threat from the New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cumo to prosecute him to the fullest-extent-of-the-law for patronizing prostitutes. After accused of solicitation by the New York Times March 10, 2008, Spitzer had little choice but to cut a plea deal with New York authorities. “Over the course of my public life, I have insisted—I believe correctly—that people take responsibility for their conduct. I can and ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning the office of governor,” said Spitzer to the press March 17, 2008.
Jumping back into the fray, Spitzer still has a dark cloud surrounding his resignation for patronizing prostitutes. During his many interviews and public appearances following his resignation, Spitzer never fully explained his aberrant behavior. He’s now considering asking New York City voters to trust him with the fiduciary duty of running the city’s finances and investments. Needing 3,750 signatures before July 11 to qualify for the ballot, Spitzer has a much bigger mountain to climb explaining why voters should trust him again to manage their money. While trying his hand on CNN as a talk show host, columnist for Slate Magazine and various appearances on local and national TV and radio, Spitzer reminds New Yorker why he was considered a frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic Party nomination. Had he not gone down in disgrace, he might have given Barack Obama a run for his money.
Spitzer’s crime-busting credentials serving as New York attorney general from Jan. 1, 1999 to Dec. 31, 2006 created iconic status as the scion of one of New York City’s wealthiest families—legendary real estate mogul Bernard Spitzer. While growing up with a silver spoon, Spitzer earned his chops at Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He quickly distinguished himself as a brilliant up-in-coming star in the Democratic Party, groomed for the highest echelons of elective office. When Eliot won the governorship Nov. 7, 2006 with 69% of the vote, he was well on his way up the corporate ladder. Revelations about his prostitution scandal shocked the New York political establishment and rocked the Democratic national landscape. Spitzer’s decision to jump back in political fray running for New York City Comptroller should be a no-brainer, if he can get over his past.
Among his competitors running for Comptroller, Manhattan borrow President Scott Stringer has already raised $3.5 million, something Eliot can do at a local Starbucks. Spitzer’s over-qualified for the job having served as governor and attorney general. His biggest obstacle is himself. While he follows disgraced former New York Congressman Anthony Wiener and former Virginia Gov. Mark Sanford on the comeback trail, Spitzer’s unique situation requires far more rehab and damage control. What irked New York legislators—especially Atty. Gen. Cumo—at the time was Spitzer attempts to break prostitution rings and other crime syndicates inside New York City. Going over to the other side patronizing high-priced call girls rubbed law enforcement the wrong way. Wieners’ Internet sexual exhibitionism and Sanford’s “Appalachian Trial” affair are small potatoes compared to Eliot.
When Spitzer’s prostitution scandal broke March 10, 2008, Eliot should have immediately gone into rehab. He managed his sex scandal far worse than golf pheonm Tiger Woods who practically destroyed his career when the National Enquirer reported Nov. 25, 2009 his affair with skanky New York City nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel. While Woods did nothing illegal, he voluntarily submitted to sexual addiction rehab treatment in Hattiesburg, Miss., acknowledging, if nothing else, that he had a problem. Spitzer’s prostitution fetish, rumored to have cost him $80,000 over the years, was far more egregious than Woods, requiring more skillful damage control. Spitzer, while joking recently that he needed a “skin like a rhinoceros” in politics, actually needs a more a methodical damage control plan. Saying nothing about his fetish didn’t help his political rehab.
Spitzer’s foray back into politics requires him to address his problems squarely, especially reassuring voters that he has the character needed to hold public office. When his prostitution scandal broke, Eliot did next to nothing to explain how a gentleman of his caliber could have destroyed his career over such hedonistic activity. When he faces voters this time around, he needs to blame his failing on past un-resolved issues, now squared away after years of therapy and self-reflection. No one doubts Eliot’s credentials to do a bang-up job as New York City comptroller. What voters need now is a reason to forgive him and let go of the past. Since most people suffer from their own problems, they’re more than willing to forgive past indiscretions as long has he’s demonstrated contrition and rehab. So far, Spitzer hasn’t given voters any reason to believe he’s turned a new leaf.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.