NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two years after resigning from Congress in a lewd photo scandal, former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner announced in a video message early on Wednesday he is running for New York City mayor.
“I made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down, but I also learned some tough lessons,” Weiner said in the video. “I‘m running because I’ve been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life.”
The announcement promises to shake up the race to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg nearly four months before the September 10 Democratic primary, though recent polls suggest Weiner faces an uphill battle.
A Quinnipiac University poll also released on Wednesday found Weiner in second place with 15 percent of the vote, trailing City Council Speaker Christine Quinn by 10 points. The poll also found nearly half of city voters say Weiner should not enter the race for mayor, while 38 percent of voters want to see him run.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson both followed with 10 percent and John Liu, the current city comptroller, with 6 percent.
Weiner’s resignation in June of 2011 marked a remarkable fall from grace for a politician who was seen as a leading liberal voice in the U.S. House of Representatives and had been widely expected to run in this year’s race for mayor.
His fall was prompted when Weiner accidentally posted a close-up of his underpants on Twitter. Weiner, then 46, denied for more than a week that he had sent the photo and intended it for a young woman, claiming instead that his @repweiner Twitter account had been hacked.
After several women came forward to say they too had shared sexually charged exchanges with the married congressman, Weiner admitted he had lied.
For months Weiner avoided the spotlight. Then, in April, he burst back onto the political scene, when the New York Times Magazine published a lengthy article about Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin, an aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Abedin also appears in Weiner’s two-minute campaign video, telling voters: “We love this city, and no one will work harder to make it better than Anthony.”
Weiner acknowledged he was thinking about running for mayor and that he had spent about $100,000 on polling to test the public’s appetite for his political comeback.
Since then, Weiner has slowly eased his way back into politics. He unveiled a new Twitter account, @anthonyweiner, which attracted thousands of followers within days.
He also released a booklet of policy ideas, titled “Keys to the City,” that included replacing textbooks in city schools with Kindle e-readers, expanding the city’s ferry system and creating a single-payer health care system for uninsured and under-insured New Yorkers.
Weiner, once known for his combative cable-news appearances, also proposed a “Mayor’s Question Time” modeled on Britain’s weekly question time with the prime minister. The sessions would turn City Council meetings into “must-see” TV events, according to a description Weiner posted on Twitter.
Critics say many of the ideas are hardly new, and that many echo positions already taken by Weiner’s Democratic rivals.
Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said that while he appreciated that Weiner was making food security a priority, Weiner’s specific policy prescriptions were consistent with positions taken by Quinn and de Blasio.
While advocates for improved public transportation say Weiner was a leader on the issue while in Congress, his “Keys to the City” ideas - which generally run about three or four sentences in length - don’t go beyond positions other candidates have already taken.
John Feal, an advocate for first responders injured in the attacks of September 11, 2001, offers unreserved praise of Weiner for fighting for the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act for sick workers.
“He was there fighting for us in the beginning and he was there at the end fighting for us. And I’ll always remember that,” Feal said.
“We’re all human,” Feal said of the scandal that led to Weiner’s downfall.
(This story has been refiled to add dropped name Bill de Blasio, fifth paragraph)
Editing by W Simon