By Russell Berman - 04/11/13 09:00 AM EDT
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s onetime colleagues in New York’s House delegation are highly skeptical of a possible run for City Hall by the ex-congressman, two years after he resigned in disgrace.
In a lengthy interview with The New York Times Magazine, the Democrat said he is considering a bid for mayor in 2013, in what would be a rapid political comeback from a 2011 scandal in which he sent lewd pictures of himself to women on the Internet and then repeatedly lied about it.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D), vice chairman of the House Democratic caucus and head of the Queens Democratic Party, said New York is “a big city and a forgiving one.”
Weiner, he said, could have a future in politics but added, “I don’t know if this is necessarily the time right now.”
Weiner confirmed that he had conducted polling to test the viability of a mayoral candidacy, and he told the magazine that while he did not have this “burning and overriding desire” to run, “to some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something.”
He would enter a crowded field of Democrats looking to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), who is completing his third term in office. The City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, is leading the polls. The other three top Democrats — William Thompson, Bill DeBlasio and John Liu — have all held citywide office.
“He’s a great guy and a great friend. I’ve already endorsed Christine Quinn,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said when asked about Weiner.
A onetime close Weiner ally, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), said, “There are a lot of New Yorkers who support Mr. Weiner who I think would be open to the possibility simply because he has had such a distinguished record in public service, and I think people are willing to forgive his transgression.”
But an endorsement would be another matter.
“It’s kind of hard to say because he’s entering so late,” Clarke said. “I’ve kind of begun to fix my sights on the field that currently exists.”
During more than a decade in the House, Weiner had earned a reputation as an outspoken and often combative advocate for liberal domestic policies, and he was considered a leading contender for mayor after running a strong race for City Hall in 2005. (He opted not to run for mayor in 2009.)
But what he called a “fateful tweet” torpedoed his political career around Memorial Day in 2011. Conservatives flagged a late-night message with a photo of a man’s crotch that Weiner sent to a woman. For days, Weiner denied that the photo was of him and claimed that his account had been hacked. After other women came forward asserting they had received lewd images, emails and messages from Weiner, he acknowledged the transgressions in a tearful press conference and resigned soon after.
Around the same time, news came out that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, then a top adviser to Hillary Clinton, was pregnant with their first child. The couple remains married, and Abedin is “starting to think he should run,” according to the Times Magazine article.
Republicans in the New York delegation were even more dubious of a quick political comeback.
“It’s a great country,” quipped Rep. Pete King (R), who represents Long Island, when asked about a Weiner candidacy.
“Anybody can come back, but I think it’s a longer road for Anthony,” King said. “I don’t wish him ill or anything like that, but I think it’s tough to come back this year.”
Rep. Michael Grimm (R) who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, said Weiner would struggle to restore his credibility after “basically lying right to the face of your constituents and to the public.”
“As a whole, that’s difficult for them to swallow, and I think that’s the hardest part,” Grimm said.
He speculated that a mayoral bid would not be “a serious run” for Weiner but a trial balloon aimed at setting up a future run for office. “I think he’s testing the waters for the future,” Grimm said.
In a city where scandal — both sexual and ethical — has become commonplace, Weiner is hoping that New York voters could forgive a mistake that featured plenty of lying but no crime and no actual sex.
“I think that’s what people are weighing right now, because it was a virtual type of scenario and a self-inflicted wound,” Clarke said. “I think just the public humiliation of it all, people feel that perhaps he’s already paid a dear price and are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”