Spitzer betting on public "forgiveness" in new political bid

(CBS News) Five years ago, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal. Now, Spitzer is returning to politics. On Sunday, he announced his candidacy for comptroller of New York City.

In an exclusive interview with "CBS This Morning " on Monday, Spitzer, when asked why people should trust him after the scandal, said: "First, I wouldn't say they should. I want to ask them to, and I think there's a difference there that's important. I want to say, 'Look, I had a long career as a prosecutor, as attorney general, was governor. I sinned, I owned up to it, I looked them in the eye, I resigned. I held myself accountable.' I think that was the only right thing to do. It's now five years later, and I hope they look back at what I did as an attorney general, as governor and as a prosecutor and say, 'You know what, this guy was ahead of the curve on the Wall Street issues. He protected low-wage workers, on the environment, protecting (the) community.' There's a record there that I hope they will look to and say, 'Yes, the comptroller's position is one that fits the skill set and we hope to bring him back for public service'."

Spitzer said he made the decision to run for the office just this past weekend.

Turning to Anthony Weiner's lately successful campaign in the New York mayoral race following his own Twitter scandal, Spitzer said he wasn't influenced by it, but generally sees "forgiveness in the public."

"Whether that forgiveness extends to any individual is always a separate, independent question and I will have to make a case very different than any other person has made," Spitzer said. "I expect I will make it every day between now and the election and I look forward to making it. Whether I was in front of a jury. I was was asking for votes as attorney general or governor, I believe in the goodness and the judgment of voters and people. If I win or lose, I have confidence in the public."

"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King asked Spitzer if news reports that he and his wife, Silda, are separated are true. Spitzer said they're not.

Spitzer said he spoke with his three daughters about his decision to run.

"We have discussed this," he said. "I wouldn't do this if I didn't think that the family would be supportive and was with it. Politics is a contact sport. So many areas of endeavor are. This one takes a unique toll on the family. I've imposed that toll. I'm very conscious of that and it's not easy."

Spitzer said his strategy for sidelining the jokes is willpower.

"You need fortitude," he said. "You need skin as thick as a rhinoceros has, and a desire to serve the public, and know that what comes with that.

"As I said, I've seen peaks that are taller than most people get to see as attorney general and governor and those are wonderful. I have seen valleys that are deeper. You learn more in the valleys. I hope some of that learning comes through. I hope my desire to serve comes through. I hope the people look at what I did as the attorney general and say, 'You know what? This guy was right on some fundamental stuff'."

So is this bid about public service or ego?

Responding to the question from "CTM" co-host Norah O'Donnell, Spitzer said: "It's a question we ask of anybody who goes into politics. The desire to stand in front and the roar of the crowd is something people like, but that's not --"

O'Donnell asked, "Did you just look at the role of comptroller and say, 'Look, I would be running against Kristin Davis -- I could probably easily get elected. This is my pathway to return to office.'?"

Spitzer replied, "This is a very tough race. This is going to be an office -- if I am lucky enough to win -- where we can do so much in terms of shareholder power, in terms of corporate power governance, in terms of protecting the pensions, in terms of making sure the city's money is invested well, spent well. I want to do to the office what I did with the Attorney General's Office, re-envision it, reimagine it."

Redemption, however, is also on Spitzer's agenda.

"You know, I don't want to be glib and say, 'No this has nothing to do with that.' I think anybody who has been through what I have been through, sure, you want redemption," Spitzer said. "I don't think this is the best way to get it. Because if that's what I wanted I don't think this is the path to it.

"What I am seeking is service. For five years, I have talked, I've written, I've had TV shows, and I hate to say this here, but the most satisfying thing for me ever is public service."

On going from governor to potentially comptroller, Spitzer said, "service is service. It's not that I want the security detail of the Governor's Office or the mansion or -- service is what makes me feel good."

King pointed out that Davis, a former madam, has tweeted, "Bring it," in response to Spitzer's bid for the office.

Spitzer replied to that on "CTM" and said, "This is politics."

Watch Spitzer's full interview above.

  • Amanda Cochran

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