Ex-Gov. Spitzer, Stringer face comptroller primary

Associated Press
Democratic comptroller hopeful Eliot Spitzer exits the voting booth after casting his vote in the primary election at his polling station in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer has spent a whirlwind two months asking voters to give him another chance after a prostitution scandal ended his political career. Now he's poised to find out whether Democrats will.

Polls showed Spitzer and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in a close race heading into Tuesday's Democratic primary for city comptroller. Since Spitzer's abrupt July decision to run, the two have been headlocked in one of the fiercest political wrestling matches in the city this year.

Seeking a comeback five years after resigning as governor and acknowledging he patronized call girls, Spitzer said Monday he felt the campaign had gotten voters thinking more about his political record than about his personal conduct.

"That is out there, but the public has said, 'OK, it's there — we're judging you based on what you did in government,'" he said Monday WWRL-AM.

Stringer is striving to capture a nomination he once expected to snag easily.

"The job of comptroller has to be watching the backs of people. ... I've been out in the streets. I've been working on these issues" while Spitzer has been out of office, Stringer said in a separate WWRL interview Monday.

Spitzer, who was never charged with any crime, has asked voters to focus on his record as a hard-charging governor and state attorney general. He was dubbed "the sheriff of Wall Street" for his financial investigations.

That resonated with Paulette Esrig, 81, a retired schoolteacher who voted for him Tuesday at a precinct in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

"I picked him not because I approve of his personal life at all, but I felt he was well qualified," she said.

But other voters said Spitzer's past scandal drove them to pull levers for Stringer, even if they didn't know much about him despite his 20 years as borough president and a former state assemblyman.

"He's not my favorite, but I think Spitzer is an abomination," said Jullian Stark, 55, a college biology professor, who also voted in Chelsea.

Stringer says he's mastered both fighting for causes and forging compromises during 20 years in public office.

And he has urged New Yorkers not to forgive or forget his opponent's personal misdeeds.

"I didn't resign in disgrace," Stringer said at a candidate forum last week. Earlier, his campaign sent voters a mailer highlighting Spitzer's involvement with prostitutes and featuring a photo of prison bars.

"If this public wants someone who makes a difference, they know who they're going to vote for," Spitzer responded at the forum, organized by the Council of Urban Professionals, a networking group. Spitzer's aides have sent reporters emails mocking Stringer for proclaiming a Justin Bieber appreciation day last year.

Spitzer had double-digit leads in some polls as recently as two weeks ago. But polls Sunday and Monday variously showed the candidates about even or Stringer slightly ahead.

The winner will face a Republican and other opponents Nov. 5.

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Follow Jennifer Peltz at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz

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Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this story.

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