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Weiner’s gain in the polls could end unofficial truce on sexting scandal

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Anthony Weiner now leads a new poll of Democratic mayoral hopefuls. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In the month since Anthony Weiner officially launched his bid for New York City mayor, the former congressman’s opponents have stayed mostly silent on the sexting scandal that forced him out of office—insisting they would rather focus on the “real issues.”

But is that unofficial truce about to change?

Republican Joe Lhota, a former chairman of the MTA and an ex-aide to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, sent a fundraising email to supporters on Wednesday calling for their help in stopping Weiner's bid for City Hall, writing “Does he deserve a second chance?”

“Like me, I’m sure that you had hoped to have seen the last of Anthony Weiner when he resigned from Congress following an illicit sexual Twitter scandal and botched cover up, but he’s back and desperate for political redemption,” Lhota wrote. “But it’s the same old story with Anthony Weiner. First, he lies to the public, the press and his family. And then he makes up his own facts. This is a pattern that is simply unacceptable.”

Lhota's comments come just a day after a new Wall Street Journal/NBC New York/Marist poll found Weiner now leads a crowded field of Democrats vying to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall. According to the poll, 25 percent of registered Democrats favor Weiner in the race—up 6 percentage points from last month. He is now beating City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the race’s longtime front-runner, by 5 percentage points.

Further back in the poll were former Comptroller Bill Thompson, who had 13 percent in the poll; Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (10 percent) and current Comptroller John Liu (8 percent). Eighteen percent of Democrats remain undecided in the race. (The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.)

(UPDATE: On Wednesday, a new Quinnipiac poll found Quinn, Weiner and Thompson statistically tied.)

Of his Democratic opponents, only one has brought up Weiner’s sexting with women who were not his wife, forcing him to resign from Congress two years ago. At a mayoral forum in Queens earlier this month, former City Council member Sal Albanese, who registered at just 1 percent in the latest poll, suggested Weiner did not have the “credibility” to be mayor.

“He's betrayed the public trust on several occasions,” Albanese said, according to Capital New York. “I think that disqualifies him from running for mayor."

Weiner, who was also at the forum, did not respond.

With just 76 days until the Democratic primary, Weiner’s gain in the polls is sure to cause alarm for his opponents—especially Quinn, whose campaign discounted Weiner’s mayoral bid early on. But it’s still unclear whether Weiner’s gain in the polls will prompt Quinn or the other Democratic hopefuls to reconsider whether it’s worth raising character questions about the ex-congressman.

So far none of the Democratic campaigns are willing to say whether they think Weiner's past scandals are fair game in the election. But Weiner appears to believe the attacks are inevitable—as evidenced by his launching his campaign with a mea culpa over his bad behavior and asking for a "second chance."

Asked about Lhota's fundraising email at a campaign stop in the Bronx on Wednesday, Weiner blew it off, according to the Daily News.

"I've been getting hit by right wing Republicans since the moment I got into public life," Weiner said. "And I'm going to keep talking about the things that I care about and I'm going to keep talking about what matters to New York City."

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