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Spitzer Faces Uphill Battle in Bid to Get Name on Ballot, Experts Say

 Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer speaks to the press on the first day of his campaign for comptroller.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer speaks to the press on the first day of his campaign for comptroller.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

NEW YORK CITY — Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has made his leg of the race for city comptroller as difficult as possible, expert say — waiting until the absolute last minute to begin collecting signatures for his campaign.

Complicating a simple task that political strategists said could kill his campaign before it even gets off the ground, Spitzer has left himself just four days to collect 3,750 signatures from registered New York City Democrats who haven't already signed one of the thousands of petitions circulating for Spitzer's possible primary opponent, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

"If he'd started two weeks ago, or even four or five days ago, he would have made it much easier on himself," said Evan Stavisky, a political consultant with the Parkside Group.

Spitzer only has two choices on how to get those names: He can go door-to-door and approach voters at their residence — the preferred method for campaigns — or he can hit the street and try to net them as they pass, according to Doug Forand, of Red Horse Strategy.

"Most campaigns will shoot to have as many as three times the amount needed, given the tenuous veracity of street signatures. That would mean collecting more than 11,000 total signatures for Spitzer," Forand said.

"It's not impossible, but it's not easy and it's going to take an extraordinary effort to make it happen," Forand said. "I think he faces a very, very tough path to make the ballot."

But all of the consultants agreed on one point — Spitzer's willingness and ability to throw money at the problem.

"He has the means to finance an operation. That's certainly in his favor," Forand said.

In addition to the signature deadline, his campaign faces the possible hurdle of having his petitions challenged. Considered one of the more dirty political tricks, a campaign or one of its surrogates can try to show that, for any of the possible reasons, the opposing campaign does not have enough signatures to qualify to be on the primary ballot in September.

But that would be a nuclear option for Stringer and his supporters, said Michael Tobman of Hudson TG. "The political consequences for challenging petitions — for bringing a ballot-access case against your opponent — has grown significantly, in terms of editorial support and claiming some sort of good-government mantle," he said.

Before he can even worry about legal challenges, Spitzer has to first collect those signatures. The day after being mobbed by the media in Union Square, Spitzer's campaign presence during the high-traffic lunch hour was nearly nonexistent Tuesday. The only Spitzer petitioner in the park at noon was campaign volunteer Lynn Parramore.

She said she was convinced to volunteer for Spitzer's campaign because of his history fighting Wall Street. She said his sexual improprieties didn't matter to her.

"I am really concerned over the power the banks have here," she said. "Spitzer's record speaks for itself on challenging those powers."

More than a few people Parramore approached in the park expressed similar feelings.

Rejane Carroll, 51, was bringing her French bulldog to the dog run. She needed little cajoling to add her name to Parramore's petition, but said as long as Spitzer "didn't use public money for his sexual adventures," she was fine with him on the ballot.

"I'm not interested in his private life," she said.

Margaret Burs, 58, was on her lunch break when Parramore approached. She, too, said Spitzer's past did not weigh on her.

"It's all about forgiving," she said. "We all have our baggage and we all make mistakes."

But not everyone was interested in helping the former governor resurrect his political career.

One woman, who refused to give her name, said she was disgusted not only by Spitzer's reemergence, but of former Rep. Anthony Weiner's post-sexting mayoral run.

"They're not role models," she said. "We will be the object of ridicule throughout the United States if we were to elect these reprehensible semi-criminals," she continued.

In a little less than two hours, Parramore was able to collect nearly 20 signatures. Another petitioner arrived and Parramore decided to head north, to Madison Square Park, in the hope of filling many more of her signature sheets. 

"He's been out of office for five years," she said. "He has paid a price for his wrongdoing, and I'm willing to give him a second chance."