NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who shook up the New York political world this week with an 11th-hour bid for city comptroller, announced on Thursday he had collected enough signatures to get on the Democratic primary ballot.
Eyeing a comeback five years after he resigned from office in a prostitution scandal, Spitzer arrived at the New York Board of Elections office carrying four boxes of petitions, with about an hour to go before the midnight deadline.
“It’s important 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,” Spitzer, who announced his candidacy on Sunday, told a crowd of reporters.
Spitzer said he had delivered 27,000 signatures - well above the 3,750 required to secure a place on the September 10 Democratic primary ballot.
Spitzer has said he wants to reinvent the position of comptroller, by taking a more activist role, similar to the financial watchdog position he carved out in two terms as state attorney general, a role that he used as a springboard to the governor’s mansion.
His term as governor was cut short in 2008, when he resigned after being identified as “Client No. 9” in a prostitution ring.
Now, with two months to go before the September 10 Democratic primary, Spitzer is leading Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer 42 to 33 percent, according to the NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.
Just last week, before Spitzer’s entrance into the race, Stringer was seen as the likely victor.
Spitzer’s spot on the ballot is still not guaranteed, since the petitions are likely to be challenged. Any registered voter in New York City can file a general objection to candidates’ petitions by July 15.
Other candidates spent weeks collecting signatures and in some cases gathered more than three times the amount necessary to show their campaign’s legitimacy and fend off possible legal actions to obstruct their candidacy.
Meanwhile, Stringer said during a campaign event on Thursday morning that he planned to submit more than 100,000 signatures.
Asked whether he intended to challenge the validity of some of the signatures hastily gathered by the Spitzer camp, Stringer said that he was focusing on his own campaign.
“My job is not to worry about who has valid petitions, my job is to make sure mine are valid,” Stringer said during a campaign stop in Lower Manhattan on Thursday.
The New York Board of Elections will announce by the end of the month if the signatures meet the city’s standards, said Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez.
On Thursday evening, Spitzer, wearing a pinstriped blue suit and red and blue tie, all but dared his detractors to contest his petitions.
“I think that anybody who would challenge 27,000 signatures is sending a statement that they don’t believe in democracy and in primaries,” he said.
“We’re so far above that I think that any challenge is going to look frivolous,” he said.
Reporting by Francesca Trianni; Editing by Edith Honan and Lisa Shumaker