Former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned after tweeting lewd pictures of himself, is considering a run for New York City mayor, in what many see as wide open race for one of the highest-profile offices in the United States.
In a lengthy interview with The New York Times magazine, posted online on Wednesday, Weiner said he hopes to enter this year’s race for City Hall, saying that he concluded, after spending $100,000 on polling, that voters might be willing to give him a second chance.
“I don’t have this burning, overriding desire to go out and run for office,” said Weiner, a Democrat who was once considered an early front-runner in the race. “It’s not the single animating force in my life as it was for quite some time. But I do recognize, to some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something.”
The news promised to shake up the mayor’s race five months before the Sept. 10 primary election. While City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has held a commanding lead in public opinion polls for the Democratic primary, political experts have said in recent days the race remains wide open.
Once seen as a rising star among Democrats, Weiner, 48, established himself as a leading liberal voice in the U.S. House of Representatives and was considered a front-runner for mayor until his fall from grace.
He was known for making fiery speeches on the House floor on issues including expanding health-care access and aiding first responders to the Sept. 11 attacks who suffered health consequences. Weiner, who resigned from Congress in June 2011 before completing his seventh term, had made an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2005.
Insiders have bemoaned the lack of star wattage from candidates in both political parties to follow Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who is nearing the end of his third and final term in office.
“This is a race that hasn’t happened yet,” said Lee Miringoff of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. “The voters aren’t clamoring for anything yet.”
Bloomberg’s failure to endorse any of the current candidates has contributed to the sense that the race for mayor has yet to catch fire.
Weiner’s downfall came quickly in 2011 after he accidentally posted a lewd photograph of himself on Twitter. The married politician had intended it only for a woman with whom he had been sharing messages.
After first insisting his Twitter account had been hacked, transcripts of other sexually charged communications with women were made public. Weiner admitted his transgression and resigned.
“We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” Weiner said of himself an his wife Huma Abedin, who was a top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.”
He described the polling, which he declined to make public, as encouraging.
“People are generally prepared to get over it, but they don’t know if they’re prepared to vote for me. And there’s a healthy number of people who will never get over it,” he said. “It’s a little complicated because I always attracted a fairly substantial amount of people who didn’t like me anyway.”
Both Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman whose initial bid for mayor marked his first foray into politics, and his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani became national figures after taking the office.
“You’re talking about a city where anything can happen at any time and generally does,” said Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “The conventional wisdom is the field is weak.”
As for Weiner, Sheinkopf said it would be hard for him to win City Hall, and suggested he might instead run for city comptroller.
“Anthony Weiner was an excellent congressman whose only crime was stupidity,” Sheinkopf said.
A survey by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, released on Wednesday, found Quinn leading the Democratic field with 32 percent, down five points from Quinnipiac’s February poll.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio follows with 14 percent. Former City Comptroller William Thompson, who lost to Bloomberg four years ago, is supported by 13 percent of voters, and 7 percent back current comptroller John Liu.
On the Republican side, more than half of voters are undecided. Joseph Lhota, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, leads the field with 23 percent, though nearly two-thirds of voters say they had not heard enough about him to form a view. George McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, a non-profit that helps the formerly homeless, followed at 11 percent, and businessman John Catsimatidis has the backing of 8 percent.