Following a four-day sprint to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot in the race for city comptroller, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer faces a new hurdle after a Republican strategist challenged his ballot petitions late Monday night.
Though Spitzer turned in more than 27,000 signatures from registered Democrats to get on ballot for the September primary, veteran political strategist E. O'Brien Murray told The New York Daily News he challenged the petitions because he doesn't think the disgraced governor's comeback should be so easy.
"I’ve been talking to many others across the city and they’re extremely put off by the idea that Eliot Spitzer thinks he can come back in after what he put the people of New York through," Murray said.
Spitzer resigned as governor in 2008 after being connected to a prostitution ring. On July 7, he announced he was running for city comptroller but needed to turn in 3,750 signatures by July 10 to qualify — the campaign reportedly paid as much as $800 a day to petitioners to collect them. To much fanfare, Spitzer turned in 23,000 more than he needed.
Murray, who helped former Republican Rep. Bob Turner take former Congressman Anthony Weiner's seat after Weiner's resignation in 2011, said "all New Yorkers should be offended" by Spitzer's political comeback attempt.
"Everyone has an opportunity for redemption. I understand that. [But you can't] buy an election and possibly commit fraud collecting your petitions," Murray said.
"I am saying to any Stringer supporter who wants to go to the Board of Elections to take a look at his petitions, don't waste your time. You shouldn't do it," he said. "We must have this race. You cannot run for control of the city of New York without a robust primary challenge."
Shortly after Stringer's remarks, Spitzer's campaign preemptively sent out a statement responding to the news the petition wouldn't be challenged.
Tuesday morning, the campaign's attorney said they were not worried about getting on the ballot.
"Anyone can file General Objections without showing a scintilla of substance for the challenge," said Martin Connor in a statement. "The Spitzer campaign took great care in the petitioning process and filed far more than the number of valid signatures required by law. There are no worries in the frontrunners' camp about making the ballot. That was last week's concern."
Still, Murray's challenge is a hiccup in an otherwise successful week-old campaign. The objection was filed several hours after another poll put Spitzer in the lead — this time 15 points ahead of Stringer.
Murray told the Daily News that the forms he observed looked full of errors, adding he thought Spitzer was capable of intimidating voters to sign.
"That is Eliot Spitzer's M.O.," Murray said.
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