NEW YORK CITY — Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer overcame the first major obstacle of his unexpected quest for political redemption when his campaign submitted more than 27,000 signatures Thursday night, just ahead of a midnight deadline.
Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace after being caught up in a prostitution scandal in 2008, shocked the New York political world Sunday by announcing a bid for city comptroller. His campaign had to scramble this week for at least 3,750 signatures in order to get on the primary ballot.
Standing outside the Board of Elections office in downtown Manhattan with four boxes full of petitions, Spitzer thanked the citizens of the city for “an outpouring of support.”
“It’s an important statement to those who said it was not possible in the course of three-and-a-half days to gather enough signatures to get a candidate on the ballot for citywide office,” he said.
The incredibly short time frame left political observers with serious doubt about Spitzer’s chances of gathering the 3,750 valid signatures it would take to face off against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the Democratic primary.
Spitzer said he was absolutely confident his signatures would stand up to any legal challenge, should one arise.
“I have been a lawyer for many years. I have petitioned on to the ballot before,” he said. “We have done this in the most meticulous way. We have checked to make sure this is done properly.”
Spitzer’s opponents have until next Wednesday to challenge the validity of his signatures. He said he believed doing so, however, would be an affront to the popular support for his campaign.
“I would think that anybody that would challenge 27,000 signatures would be sending a statement that they don’t really believe in democracy; they don’t believe in primaries, they don’t believe in the fundamental notion of competition,” Spitzer said.
At the outset of his campaign, Spitzer said he would not be participating in the city’s public finance system, opting instead to use his personal wealth to fund his run. Stringer’s campaign released a statement shortly after Spitzer’s petitions were filed criticizing the move.
"If Eliot Spitzer cared about democracy, he would participate in the city's campaign finance program and not use his personal fortune to try and buy this election wholesale,” read the statement, claiming that Stringer had collected more than 100,000 signatures “[t]hrough an entirely volunteer” effort.
Inside the board of elections, Spitzer joined other candidates and campaigns getting their signatures in at the last minute. While clerks stamped the many pages of his ballot, Spitzer turned at one point to the press, brandishing a thick bound stack of petitions.
“Just so you can see they’re real,” he said, flipping through the pages.
At one point a board staff member called over: “Eliot.”
Spitzer turned to the man.
“Congratulations,” he said with a smile as Spitzer shook his hand.