While I personally am a big fan of forgiveness, whether it be for friends, family or my elected officials, I have now read several articles comparing NYC’s two newest scandal plagued candidates to Mark Sanford’s political comeback in South Carolina. Sanford was the former Governor of South Carolina who in 2010 was found to have traveled to Argentina on taxpayer dollars to have a tussle, or several, with his mistress. He was also a Republican.
Eliot Spitzer is the former Governor of NY state. His affair became such a big-deal scandal, unlike Sanford, he did not finish out a full term. Anthony Weiner is the former Congressman of a heavily blue-collar, heavily Jewish district. Ironically, his district flipped red in the run-up to the 2010 general election due to dissatisfaction with his actions, a sub par Democratic replacement and Obama’s perceived handling of Israel’s problems with Palestine. Weiner was discovered to have been tweeting several lude photos of himself to multiple college girls in the state. He initially tried to survive the scandal but was forced out by party leadership. I bet he and Nancy Pelosi still text each other from time to time.
Anthony Weiner in early 2013 declared his intentions to run for mayor of NYC. More recently, Spitzer declared to run for Comptroller of the city. In essence, both are seeking political redemption from an electorate that seems to have a habit of electoral contortions to justify voting for scandal tainted candidates. Keep in mind they voted in Rudy Giuliani, even after it was discovered he had cheated on his wife. While there are many on the right, and some on the left, who will point out this weird phenomenon, many more seem willing to justify it. No justification seems more popular currently than comparing Spitzer’s and Weiner’s political comebacks to Mark Sanford.
This justification however seems incredibly shallow once one gets beyond the surface of the claim. All three are indeed linked by a sexually related scandal. But that is where the comparison should end. But, some will say, Republicans elect people who commit these scandals so why not should voters in NYC, mostly Democrats, do the same? I cannot tell voters in NYC what to do but I can say that in the case of Republicans who have committed these scandals and made political comebacks, such as in the case of Sanford there is one key difference. Not that the media would ever think of this. They seem to be much harsher on Republican transgressions.
Sanford ran for a federal office whereas both Weiner and Spitzer are attempting to take local offices (though a gig as mayor or comptroller of NYC is basically as big as being Governor, Comptroller, or US Senator). In Sanford’s case this meant he ran against somebody who was not just his partisan but also ideological opposite. Spitzer faces only one challenger, a fellow Democrat, Scott Stringer, and that election will be decided in September in the primary. Weiner faces a crowded primary of Democrats and if he wins he would only face an under-funded, weak, and progressive Independent to rise to the mayoral office.
What this illustrates is that in the case of Sanford voters had to choose between an ideologically right but personally flawed candidate vs. an ideologically flawed Democrat but personally liked. Sanford’s opponent, Colbert-Busch, polled well among voters on likability but she never could overcome the fact she favored unions and went to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. In the end voters chose the candidate that would better represent them ideologically than the candidate they better liked personally.
New Yorkers do not have that choice for either mayor or comptroller. They get to vote on a crop of candidates ideologically in sync and with differences on issues only on the margins. In short, if New Yorkers elect Weiner and Spitzer it will signify they have a weird mindset on how their elected officials behave. They will have no fallback justification of saying one fits them better ideologically than any of the others. Or that partisan differences among the candidates decided their choices.
At least voters in South Carolina did and it makes the comparisons of Sanford to Spitzer and Weiner laughable at best.