The race for mayor of New York City took a long-expected turn Tuesday night when Anthony Weiner, the former city councilman and congressman from Forest Hills, entered the contest with an announcement posted on YouTube.
Weiner, who quit the House two years ago after sending lewd photos of himself to young women across the country via social media and then lying to the public about doing so for two weeks, said he had made big mistakes in his life but is looking for a second chance.
The video opens with Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, who was an aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, having breakfast with their toddler son. “Every day starts here, and it’s the best part of my day,” Weiner says in a voiceover. “And then you step outside, and New York’s like no other place.”
After brief shots of typical New York scenes, a crowded sidewalk and the subway, the video shifts to Weiner walking through his childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn and talking about growing up in the city, before getting into his vision for the future.
He laments the city’s high rents and housing prices and says good jobs are disappearing, schools aren’t all they could be and small businesses are being nickel-and-dimed to death by overregulation. He boasts of securing funding to hire more police officers and cover the healthcare needs of 9/11 responders as a congressman, along with helping to pass the healthcare law of 2010.
Citing a 64-point policy plan he recently released, Weiner says he will focus on making the city more amenable to the middle class.
“We love this city, and no one will fight harder to make it better than Anthony,” Abedin says in a closing shot as the couple sits on the stoop of Weiner’s childhood home.
Weiner’s opponents in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary are City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), whom surveys show is the frontrunner, the only candidate polling above Weiner before he actually entered the contest, City Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Councilman Sal Albanese.
The primary winner will face one of three Republicans in November, barring the entry of any other candidate on that side of the aisle: former Deputy Mayor and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota, businessman John Catsimatidis or nonprofit founder George McDonald.
In either primary, if no candidate wins 40 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held between the top two vote-getters.
Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion is running on the Independence Party line.
Having eyed a 2009 race for mayor until the City Council changed the law so Mayor Bloomberg could run for a third term that year, Weiner has about $5 million in campaign funds on hand.
An April 19 poll by Quinnipiac University showed he had the support of 15 percent of Democratic primary voters, while Quinn scored 28 percent. The other Democrats all polled below Weiner. The survey also reported that 41 percent of all voters said he should enter the race for mayor, while 44 percent said he should not.
Weiner was a boisterous and politically aggressive member of the House known for strongly backing policies like the healthcare law, which he said would have been better if it had included a government insurance option. He was a frequent guest on TV political debate shows, where he staunchly promoted Democratic positions. Prior to becoming a congressman, he had served as a city councilman.
Scandal drove him from the House after he sent a woman a sexually suggestive photo of himself on May 27, 2011 via Twitter, in a way that allowed the public to see it. He initially claimed that someone had hacked his Twitter account and that the picture was not of him. But more photos of the congressman only partially clothed emerged, and on June 6 he admitted in a teary press conference that he had been carrying on sexually charged online relationships with half a dozen women.
“I’ve brought pain to people I cared about the most, and people who believed in me, and for that I am terribly sorry,” the seven-term congressman said at the time.
Criticism and pressure for him to resign mounted, and on June 16 he announced that he would step down as of June 21. Republican Bob Turner of Breezy Point won the seat in a special election. But then the district, which straddled Queens and Brooklyn, was eliminated during reapportionment.
Weiner and his family moved from Forest Hills to Manhattan after the scandal.