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Queens Chronicle

Eliot Spitzer for the Democratic comptroller nomination

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:30 am

This was going to be the Scott Stringer endorsement for the Democratic nomination for city comptroller. The Manhattan borough president has served his constituents well, with integrity. He’d make a fine candidate to face Republican John Burnett in November, and if he were to win, a fine comptroller, we figured. He was certainly a safer bet than his primary opponent, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who had, after all, resigned in disgrace after doubtlessly committing illegal acts.

But then we met with both candidates, Stringer last Friday and Spitzer on Monday. And, after much deliberation, we changed our minds.

We hereby endorse Spitzer.

This was not an easy decision, and it puts us at odds with all three of the city dailies that have endorsed in the race. But before you throw the paper across the room, hear us out. Spitzer is far better prepared for the job, much more qualified than Stringer to manage the city pension fund’s $140 billion in investments, which is the position’s main responsibility. How the comptroller handles that money dictates to a large degree how much taxpayers have to contribute to the fund. Spitzer is also better suited to the job’s other main task, approving or denying city contracts.

This is not a criticism of Stringer, who, again, has served with honor and, we trust, will continue to in some capacity. But while Spitzer has dealt with high finance from all angles throughout his career, Stringer’s one foray into the business world was owning a bar that failed after a year.

Spitzer, by contrast, has protected investors, especially small ones, through landmark investigations and prosecutions, and also successfully navigated the world of high-end New York real estate by running his family’s firm.

It was Spitzer who, while working for then-Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, led the 1992 investigation that ended the Mafia’s stranglehold on the city’s garment and trucking industries. After that, he worked for a private firm on many antitrust and consumers’ rights cases.

As state attorney general, Spitzer went after fraud in the market with a vengeance. He revealed how certain favored investors were making illegal after-market trades, to the detriment of the little guy. He also famously took on AIG, the insurance giant, years before its meltdown in September 2008, which epitomized and drove the financial crisis from which we are still recovering. And he went after predatory lenders years before their role in the crisis was revealed.

And, yes, Spitzer also went after prostitutes. In a very different meaning of the phrase. His lawbreaking and infidelity while serving as governor are tough hurdles for the voter to overcome. He also went way too far in using the State Police to target a political opponent.

Has he changed? We cannot know. We hope so. Unlike former Rep. Anthony Weiner, to whom he is naturally compared during this campaign season, he did not go back to his “old ways” after resigning his position, as far as we know.

The voters seem to have a sense of this too. While Weiner’s support has been dropping and it now looks like he’ll never be elected mayor, Spitzer’s has been increasing. He leads Stringer by 19 percent in the latest poll.

One thing we don’t have to worry about when it comes to Spitzer is corruption for financial gain, something that has plagued past comptrollers, city and state. He’s more than wealthy enough to make us confident he cannot be bought.

In our interview, Stringer said he would hire the best and brightest to advise him on investments. Spitzer is the best and brightest. Despite the misgivings, it’s clear he’s the better candidate. Vote Spitzer on Sept. 10.

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