NEW YORK (CNN) — Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned in 2011 amid scandal over a lewd photo sent via Twitter, confirmed in an interview published Wednesday that he’s considering a political comeback, with a New York City mayoral bid on his radar.
The Democrat admitted he’s eying this year’s mayor’s race in a lengthy New York Times Magazine article that detailed his life with wife Huma Abedin, a close aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and their attempts to stay out of the limelight over the past two years-until now.
Weiner confirmed his political committee spent more than $100,000 on polling and research by Obama’s pollster, David Binder.
News broke last month that Weiner had been actively spending based on reports filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
The payments seemed like movement beyond comments Weiner made just last summer, when he told People Magazine that he was “very happy in (his) present life.”
“I’m not doing anything to plan a campaign,” he said.
Binder said the focus of the recent poll was whether voters were willing to give the former congressman, who represented parts of Brooklyn and Queens for more than six terms, a second chance, regardless of which office he sought.
“There was this sense of ‘Yeah, he made a mistake. Let’s give him a second chance. But there are conditions on that, and there are a couple of things we’re going to want to know: What have you been doing since this incident occurred? Did you learn anything from this mistake? How did you deal with it?’ They want to know that they’ve put it behind them,” Binder said, according to the Times piece.
Weiner’s controversy dominated headlines for weeks, as he first lied about the lusty photo. Later, reports of online exchanges with other women began to surface. He held a widely-watched press conference on June 6 to confirm the rumors, a little more than a week after the Twitter photo, then resigned 10 days later.
After the 2011 scandal, Weiner retreated to a more private life, while Abedin stayed focused on her job at the State Department. Soon after Weiner’s resignation, it became public that Abedin was pregnant, and they now have a 13-month-old, Jordan. Weiner’s role has largely been that of a stay-at-home dad, but speculation that he may re-enter politics has been circulating for more than a year.
“By agreeing to be interviewed , Weiner and Abedin would seem to be trying to give voters what they want – and gauge public reaction,” stated the article, written by Jonathan Van Meter.
The power couple talked about staying off the grid the last two years, trying to avoid paparazzi and the same public events they normally frequented in Washington.
“We didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable,” Abedin said, “but also, we just didn’t want to deal with it. I have now gotten used to people asking, over and over again, ‘How is Anthony?’ Oh, he’s good! ‘But how is he doing?’ He’s doing fine.”
“We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” Weiner added. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.”
Should he decide to enter this year’s mayoral race, he’ll have some tough competition. Speaker of the City Council Christine Quinn has long been the Democratic front-runner, and has a big lead over Republican candidates in hypothetical match-ups. If Quinn is elected, she’ll become New York’s first female and first openly gay mayor.
Weiner also has nearly $4.5 million cash on hand – a start for a mayoral run in the Big Apple. In contrast, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent over $108 million on his successful 2009 bid for a third term, according to the campaign finance board records.
“I don’t have this burning, overriding desire to go out and run for office,” Weiner said. “It’s not the single animating force in my life as it was for quite some time. But I do recognize, to some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something.”
For this year’s race, he faces a tight deadline. Candidates have until the second week of July to file paperwork to appear on the ballot for the Democratic mayoral primary set for September 10, according to New York City Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez. They must submit 3,750 petition signatures from voters, as well.
“I’m trying to gauge not only what’s right and what feels comfortable right this second, but I’m also thinking, How will I feel in a year or two years or five years? Is this the time that I should be doing it? And then there’s the other side of the coin, which is . . . am I still the same person who I thought would make a good mayor?”