Going by the results of Tuesday’s primary, New York City voters have a strong sense of integrity and moral outrage. They rejected every candidate that had been visibly involved in a sex scandal.
A total of four men were looking for rehabilitation of their political careers by running for office in this cycle, but they seriously misjudged the mood of the electorate. The first is the notorious Anthony Weiner, who somehow thought his outrageous sexting behavior, lies, and general abrasiveness would translate into votes, making him the next mayor of New York City. The public thought otherwise.
Perhaps the outcome would have been different if it hadn’t recently been revealed that Weiner’s promise to swear off the sexting — posting pictures of his private parts along with lewd commentary to women other than his wife — didn’t actually materialize until months after he supposedly stopped. The man then did little to help himself other than trot out his wife to reiterate her unwavering support of the weasel she married.
His campaign was strewn with angry confrontations with voters, the last occurring when the election was over. After garnering only 5% of the vote, he drove off with one last, parting gesture — his hand, with the middle finger raised, showing prominently in the car window. This, by the way, was after one of his sexting partners, Sydney Leathers, showed up at his afterparty in a tight red dress. Good call, New York!
No less outrageous was the bid by Eliot Spitzer to become New York City’s comptroller. Spitzer, of course, is the former NY governor who was caught up in a prostitution scandal and forced to resign in 2008. He is believed to have spent up to $80,000 on hiring hookers through a prostitution ring. Ironically, he was exposed by a series of suspicious bank transfers that alerted the federal government that something strange was going on. And this guy thought he should be in charge of New York City’s finances?
At least Spitzer had the decency to wait five years before attempting his comeback. As a result, he lost Tuesday’s primary by a much smaller margin — 52% to 48% — than did Weiner.
The other two sexual harassers performed their misdeeds in the same setting — as assemblymen for the state of New York. This has led to the uncovering of a wider scandal, which we’ll get to in a minute.
Former State Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez was defeated for city councilman in the borough of Brooklyn. Lopez just resigned from the legislature in May, as he was facing expulsion for the many years he spent harassing and groping at least eight female staffers. One of them eventually wore a wire into his office to record his antics. Immediately after resigning, Lopez began a run for a city council seat in Brooklyn. His neighbors handed him a solid drubbing — he lost by 12 percentage points.
State Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner was in the midst of his run for a New York City Council seat this summer when four-year-old allegations of sexual harassment surfaced, allegations that were apparently suppressed by the leadership of the state assembly — which we’ll get to in a minute. Kellner allegedly made life ‘a living hell’ for a young female staffer who rejected his advances. An investigation into the charges apparently derailed Kellner’s hopes for a council seat and he, too, was handed a loss on Tuesday.
The wider scandal is that the sexual harassment charges against Kellner were suppressed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, as well as the multiple charges that were made against Vito Lopez. Silver is now the target of yet another investigation.
The New York Times quoted several takes on the remarkable ‘moral reckoning’ that took place in the election this week. From the president of the local National Organization for Women group, Sonia Ossorio:
It turns out sexual misconduct is a fast track to a concession speech. Voters will reject candidates who fail to treat women with respect and dignity.
Urban policy professor Mitchell L. Moss, of New York University, said:
There actually are some moral standards we apply to elected officials that are not found elsewhere in the nation … The perception of New York as a den of sin is not consistent with the reality.
And political science professor Christina Greer of Fordham University said:
The larger story is we were looking for a new day, a new day post-Bloomberg, post-drama, post-scandal and embarrassment for the city and state of New York.
So if these four sexual predators were looking to New York voters for redemption, they’re going to have to search elsewhere — perhaps inside themselves would be a good place to start. As for New Yorkers, they’ve given their resounding answer to the quest and it’s, Oh, Hell, No!