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Spitzer seeks return to politics -- as NYC comptroller

By Adam Reiss and Ed Payne, CNN
updated 11:12 AM EDT, Mon July 8, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner could wage their comebacks in the same election
  • Spitzer says he's looking for forgiveness and a second chance
  • He's seeking 3,750 signatures needed by Thursday to get on primary ballot
  • Spitzer resigned in 2008 in the wake of a prostitution scandal

New York (CNN) -- Seeking redemption after a prostitution scandal waylaid his political career, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer launched a petition campaign Monday in a bid to become the comptroller of New York City.

If he succeeds in getting on the ballot for the September primary, Spitzer will join former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner -- who is seeking the city's Democratic mayoral nomination -- as disgraced New York politicians trying to revive their careers in the same election.

"Politics is a contact sport," Spitzer said Monday morning on radio's "The Bill Press Show." "I made significant errors. I stood up, accepted responsibility, resigned. It's now been five years, I hope the public will extend its forgiveness to me."

The decision was somewhat sudden, with Spitzer telling CBS on Monday that he reached it over the weekend. Now he knows the tough questions will come.

"You need skin as thick as a rhinoceros," he said in the CBS interview.

2011: Eliot Spitzer signs off

Spitzer joins the ranks of other politicians gambling on the forgiveness -- or fleeting memories -- of voters to resume their derailed careers.

Spitzer to toss hat back in the political ring

Among them are former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who won a U.S. House seat in May four years after revealing an extramarital affair, and Weiner, who recently jumped into the race for New York mayor after resigning his House seat over sexual-tinged tweets.

Spitzer, a Democrat, resigned in 2008 after revelations he spent thousands of dollars on prostitutes.

Since stepping down, the Democrat has been a commentator for various news outlets, including CNN.

"I recognize the flaws that led to 2008," Spitzer told CNN on Sunday night.

In the Monday interviews that coincided with a campaign to gather the 3,750 signatures needed by Thursday to get on the primary ballot, Spitzer said his goal was to return to public service.

"I think anybody's who's been through what I have been through -- sure you want redemption," he told CBS. "I don't think this is the best way to get it. If that's what I want, then I don't think this is the path to it, but what I am seeking is service. ... The most satisfying thing for me ever is public service."

A comptroller's life

A comptroller oversees how an organization reports its finances.

It will be a far cry for the 54-year-old former New York attorney general whose reputation as a scourge of white-collar crime propelled him to the governor's office in 2006.

"I have to win over not only Wall Street, but Main Street, and the record of my cases on Wall Street shows I understood the real problems," he said Sunday.

Spitzer said he has his wife's support as he jumps back into political life but doesn't know if she'll be joining him on the campaign trail. Asked Monday if they were separated, he said no.

When politics gives you a second chance

Second chances

Politics is full of second chances. Just ask Sanford.

His political career was left for dead when he disclosed -- after disappearing from the public eye for nearly a week in 2009 -- that he was having an affair with an Argentine woman.

He told his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail during his absence but eventually admitted he had been in Buenos Aires. He withstood an impeachment attempt in the South Carolina Legislature, but his wife divorced him.

Cut to 2013, when Sanford ran in a special election to fill a vacant U.S. House seat in South Carolina. He won the GOP primary and then defeated a Democratic challenger to return to Washington, where he previously was a congressman before becoming governor.

Weiner hopes for a similarly successful comeback.

He was in his seventh term in Congress representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens when he was caught sending lewd photos and messages to multiple women. At first he lied, claiming his Twitter account was hacked, but he later admitted to the indiscretions and left the House of Representatives.

In May, Weiner announced he'd be running for mayor of New York.

Two surveys of voters released in late June indicate Weiner is basically tied in the battle for the Democratic mayoral nomination.

Spitzer hopes for a similar reaction.

"I think it is a land of forgiveness," he told "The Bill Press Show," adding that "people in their natural goodness understand the fact that ... we sin, we pay a price and hopefully continue."

Opinion: Zombie politicians find new life after disgrace

CNN's Ashley Killough and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

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