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On Day One, Spitzer Greets Voters, the Press and Hecklers

 Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's first day campaigning for New York City comptroller.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's first day campaigning for New York City comptroller.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

UNION SQUARE — Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer hit the streets Monday for the first time since shocking the New York City political world in announcing his bid for city comptroller.

He was met by a throng of reporters and onlookers in Union Square as he began the process of getting the nearly 4,000 signatures he needs before Thursday night to earn a spot on the ballot.

But before he could get out more than a sentence, the 54-year-old who resigned in disgrace after being caught up in a prostitution ring was getting heckled.

"Eliot, why were you late, were you with a hooker?" asked a large man brandishing an iPhone. "You leave your black socks on?"

The heckling continued nearly uninterrupted as Spitzer spoke. Thus began Eliot Spitzer's unexpected return to New York politics.

Heckling aside, Spitzer patiently took questions from reporters for nearly a half hour as the sun beat down.

"It's a little hot," Spitzer, dressed in a suit and tie, told a reporter. "You guys are dressed better than I am."

Speaking about politics and about "public service," Spitzer continuously pointed to his time as attorney general — rather than his time as governor — as the office of record he hoped voters would examine.

"In 2004, 5, 6, 7, when the market was bombing and everyone said there was no issue, I said wait a minute guys, there's structural issues here," Spitzer said, alluding to the work as attorney general that resulted in his "Sheriff of Wall Street" moniker. "The cases we made mattered because we highlighted what was wrong with the marketplace. The public understands that."

Spitzer was asked repeatedly about whether the surprisingly competitive mayoral campaign of Anthony Weiner inspired him to enter the comptroller's race.

"That had nothing to do with it," Spitzer said.

Spitzer appeared confident in his ability to collect the thousands of signatures he'll need to get on the ballot, despite the short time frame.

"We have four days and we're going to be out here every day. There are going to be folks working with me. I'll be at subway stations, I'll be walking on streets," he said. "This is going to be a fun operation."

When asked what it would mean if the world wakes up after Election Day to a Mayor Weiner and Comptroller Spitzer leading New York City, the candidate responded, "Democracy works to reflect the will of the public."

If Spitzer successfully gets on the ballot, he will face Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the citywide Democratic primary for the comptroller seat in September.

At one point on Monday, Victor Arratta, 52, reached in through the crowd to thank Spitzer for his work on behalf of the Latino community when he was attorney general.

"We support you," he repeated.

Afterward, Arratta said he'd found out about Spitzer's first day of petitioning on the news while he was working out and wanted to stop by.

"Everyone deserves a second chance, right?"