Anthony Weiner’s entry into the New York City mayoral contest further crowds a packed Democratic primary field and gives the race its first major Jewish candidate.
The disgraced ex-lawmaker, who resigned from Congress in 2011 after he sent racy pictures of himself to women online, announced his comeback candidacy in a YouTube video posted late Tuesday.
He enters the race late, giving opponents a major head start in building constituencies and attracting support. He also faces steep hurdles in overcoming the still-fresh sexting scandal.
A Quinnipiac poll posted today found that 49% of New York City voters think that Weiner should not run for mayor.
Jewish political insiders say that it may be too late for Weiner to amass major Jewish support, particularly in Brooklyn’s large Orthodox community. Orthodox political operatives are already long-committed to Weiner’s Democratic opponents.
“I think [Christine] Quinn, [Bill] de Blasio and [Bill] Thompson all have made major inroads into the Orthodox community,” said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group, a political consultancy, who backs Quinn in the race. “Weiner at one point was very popular and energetic representative for the community, but it’s going to be quite difficult for him to carve out his niche.”
Weiner’s entry into the race appears to increase the chances of a Democratic primary runoff, which election rules prescribe if no single candidate amasses 40% of the vote in the election’s first round. Candidates in a runoff would particularly benefit from institutional support, such as backing from unions – something that Weiner seems unlikely to attract.
Weiner’s campaign launch video, which runs just over two minutes, stresses his own middle class Brooklyn roots. His issues point to a campaign targeted at middle class voters: high property costs, and regulations facing small business owners.
Weiner also nods towards his own past troubles towards the end of the video. “Look, I made some big mistakes, and I know I let a lot of people down,” Weiner says, standing with his hands on his hips on what looks like a Park Slope, Brooklyn side street. “I’ve also learned some tough lessons… I hope I get a second chance to work for you.”
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.