Anthony Weiner lost his lead among seven Democratic candidates for New York mayor in the first poll since he said he engaged in lewd Internet exchanges more than a year after resigning from Congress over similar behavior.
The NBC 4/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released two days after the scandal showed that Weiner had slipped to a statistical three-way tie for second place, with 16 percent support among registered Democrats, after coming in first with 25 percent in a June 25 poll. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn topped the field in the new survey with 25 percent after receiving 20 percent last month.
Former City Comptroller William Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio each drew 14 percent.
“These new revelations have cost Anthony Weiner the lead in the Democratic field,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Poughkeepsie, New York-based Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “There’s been a significant erosion in people’s willingness to say he deserves another chance.”
Fifty-five percent had an unfavorable view of Weiner, an all-time high, while 30 percent held a positive one, Miringoff said.
Weiner, 48, has vowed to continue his candidacy after calls for him to drop out from the city’s major daily newspapers, three of his rivals and the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, which called him “unfit for public office.” He served in the U.S. House of Representatives about 12 years from a district serving parts of Queens and Brooklyn until his June 16, 2011, resignation.
The survey was taken the day after the gossip website TheDirty.com on July 23 posted exchanges between a woman and a man it said was Weiner. The site showed explicit photos sent under the user name “Carlos Danger,” whom the website identified as the former congressman.
In an e-mail the same day, Weiner said, “While some things that have been posted today are true and some are not, there is no question that what I did was wrong.” The behavior, he said, “is behind me.”
Weiner repeated that assertion today during a campaign stop at a Brooklyn soup kitchen, saying he had similar exchanges with six to 10 women. He said three may have occurred after he resigned from Congress.
“I don’t have a specific number for you,” he told reporters. “I said at the time of my resignation there were six. Here’s the problem: There are people I had exchanges with that are completely appropriate. There are no pictures, no illicit texts or anything like that.”
As he spoke, TheDirty.com had posted images it said were photographs of Weiner’s penis taken from various angles, which it said the former congressman had sent to the woman.
The CBS television show “Inside Edition” said the woman had agreed to an interview to be broadcast today in which she identified herself by the name “Sydney Leathers” and said that she had been in love with Weiner.
“I cared about him a lot, he was very important to me,” she said, according to a partial transcript provided by the show. Lauren Nowell, a spokeswoman for the show, said the woman was paid for the interview.
When asked her reaction to watching Weiner in a July 23 news briefing, the woman replied, “I’m disgusted by him. He’s not who I thought he was.”
If she could talk to Weiner now, she said, she would tell him to “stop lying, stop embarrassing his wife, and get help.”
According to the transcript, she tearfully said of Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, “I am extremely sorry for my part in the hurt and pain that she’s obviously feeling right now.”
Weiner said he would remain in the race because “citizens have to decide for themselves” whether this is important to them.
“I sought help, I got help,” Weiner said. “I sought the help of my wife. Like problems that people have, this one thankfully is behind me.”
In interviews, some campaign donors continued to back his candidacy.
“I am very much still supportive; despite all of the prior allegations I think he is still the best candidate,” said Edward Mermelstein, 45, a lawyer in the city who gave Weiner $1,000 on both June 10 and July 10.
“It was a childish thing for him to do and it’s over and his wife forgave him,” said Boris Mantell, 68, a retired pharmacist in Brooklyn, who gave $1,250 on July 10 and said he may give Weiner more.
Robert Shapiro, who teaches politics at Columbia University, called today’s poll results “striking in the unfavorable views expressed toward Weiner.” Quinn appeared to be picking up support lost by Weiner, Shapiro said.
“If Weiner exits the race, it would appear to benefit her,” he said.
Quinn today told reporters Weiner had shown poor judgment and immaturity. Weiner answered that criticism by attacking Quinn for her 2008 decision to change the law restricting local elected officials to two four-year terms. That enabled her and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for additional terms.
“Look, you can question my judgment but I didn’t lie to the people of the city of New York,” he said. “I didn’t express to the people of the city of New York as part of my official job that I was not going to do something and give myself an additional term in office and the mayor an additional term in office.”
In the Marist poll released today, City Comptroller John Liu received 7 percent; Bronx pastor Erick Salgado, 2 percent and former City Councilman Sal Albanese, 1 percent. Nineteen percent remained undecided. Marist based its findings on telephone interviews with 551 Democratic voters. The poll had a 4.2 percentage-point margin of error.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city by about 6-to-1 among registered voters. If no candidate gets 40 percent in a Sept. 10 primary, the top two finishers in each party will compete in an Oct. 1 runoff.
Today’s poll reported that Democrats appear more forgiving toward Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as New York’s governor in 2008 after getting caught consorting with high-price prostitutes. Spitzer, 54, is now running against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, 53, to become the party’s nominee for city comptroller.
Spitzer leads Stringer 49 percent to 32 percent among Democrats, including those leaning toward a candidate, with 17 percent undecided. Spitzer has widened his lead since a July 10 Marist poll showed him leading Stringer 42 percent to 33 percent.
Among Democrats, 57 percent say Spitzer would do a good or excellent job as the city’s chief financial officer, responsible for auditing agencies and overseeing about $140 billion in pension-fund assets. Forty percent said Weiner would do an excellent or good job as mayor.
“Spitzer has been given much more leeway than Weiner,” Miringoff said in a telephone interview. “It’s a very different set of perceptions among Democrats concerning Spitzer compared with Weiner.”
Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is barred by law from seeking a fourth term.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at email@example.com