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Queens Chronicle

Anthony Weiner phone polling fuels talk of citywide run

Unknown source questioning city voters about former mayoral fave

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:06 am, Thu Feb 7, 2013.

Few people if any expected former Congressman Anthony Weiner to retire to the role of Mr. Mom.

And reports of a new telephone poll asking people’s opinions about Weiner in connection with a possible citywide race have fueled speculation that the one-time mayoral favorite is testing the waters of public opinion.

Weiner was a seven-term congressman representing Queens and Brooklyn when he was forced to resign in 2011 after texting inappropriate pictures of himself to several women, and then lying about the photos’ origins.

According to the Daily News, numerous people throughout the city have been contacted by an unknown pollster asking questions pertaining to Weiner and a possible run for mayor or comptroller.

And political experts contacted by the Chronicle in an unscientific poll said they would not be surprised to see Weiner attempt a comeback sooner rather than later.

“Rumors of Anthony Weiner returning are nothing new,” said Andrew Moesel a political consultant with the firm Sheinkopf, Ltd.

“I’m interested in where the poll is coming from, who is doing it,” he said. “Is it a poll that Weiner is directing or a potential opponent who is concerned and is asking questions about him?”

Moesel’s firm is not yet representing any citywide candidates this year.

Consultant Michael Tobman of Hudson TG, whose clients this year include Queens borough president hopeful Melinda Katz and public advocate candidate Letitia James, primarily works for Democrats.

“You have two tracks here,” Tobman said. “Anthony Weiner is talented and sorely missed, but in my opinion this is too soon,” he said. “Another business model employed by some consultants is to generate interest and buzz ahead of the candidate.”

Both consultants and Brian Browne, an adjunct professor of government and politics at St. John’s University, believe Weiner’s sights would more likely be on a citywide rather than local race.

“Anthony Weiner is a political animal,” said Browne, who serves as St. John’s vice president for governmental affairs. “He has only known public service in his entire career ... It would be an uphill battle, and he would have to explain the whole Twitter scandal.”

But Browne also said in his opinion Weiner would desire a citywide race, such as for mayor or comptroller. He added that an old cliche could prove true in this case.

“Follow the money,” he said. “He has $4.5 million in his war chest, and he would be eligible for another $1.5 million in matching funds — but he would have to spend it this year. Big personality, big race. Go big or go home.”

Moesel said local races, even if they were to Weiner’s liking, might prove problematic.

“The question is what would he run for?” he asked. “His congressional district has been eliminated. Brooklyn borough president is wide open but the Queens borough president race is a crowded minefield.”

The comptroller’s race has no incumbent with John Liu planning to run for mayor. Democratic Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has not declared but is considered a likely candidate.

“You have a city of 9 million people and Scott Stringer is the only one running for comptroller?” Tobman asked. “Is that possible?”

All three men added that Weiner has name recognition, and always has been extremely popular among his constituents.

“Dynamics in Manhattan are different,” Tobman said. “This is the outer-borough guy who could have been mayor.”

In regard to the forgiving nature of the New York City electorate, Tobman believes voters would be more understandinging of the texting incidents themselves than the lying afterward.

Browne said New Yorkers and Americans in general tend to be forgiving people, and that Gothamites have a history of judging elected officials on job performance. He cited Mayor Jimmy Walker, who served from 1926 to 1932 before political scandals did force him to resign.

“He was corrupt,” Browne said. “He left his wife for a showgirl. And he got re-elected. Rudy Giuliani also had some personal issues, but New Yorkers tended to look the other way.”

Moesel was asked if Weiner’s return is inevitable, be it this year or another.

“He is a very gifted politician, and he has the bug,” Moesel said. “I don’t think he’ll stay away indefinitely.”

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