Anthony Weiner stands up at a Quinnless debate
It's not as if Anthony Weiner would have had any trouble standing out at an education forum today, given the almost ridiculous levels of media attention that greeted his every movement, but he distinguished himself anyway.
He stood up to answer questions while his opponents remained seated, wore a blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves while they all wore dark suit jackets and ties, and said he wouldn't provide special funding for arts instruction in public schools, while all his rivals said they would.
His appearance at the event, organized by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools (a group that is opposed to many of the Bloomberg administration's signature education policies) and held at N.Y.U., marked the first time Weiner fielded questions from an audience alongside his rivals for the Democratic nomination.
And since City Council Speaker Christine Quinn skipped the forum, instead scheduling a campaign event in Brooklyn, Weiner was, at least according to the latest Marist poll, the front-runner in the room.
Weiner's answers on a number of questions were different from those given by his rivals who were there (including Bill de Blasio, John Liu, Bill Thompson and Sal Albanese), and less likely to please the group that hosted the event: in addition to the answer to the question about arts funding, Weiner also defended his previous call to make it easier to remove disruptive students from classrooms, and refused to ban co-locations of charter schools without community approval.
Weiner also said he wanted to "reward" teachers who took jobs in more challenging schools.
CNN and other news outlets came early to set up their video cameras for Weiner's debut, and before the event, a Fox television reporter approached Weiner, microphone in hand, and began asking him questions as he sat on the dais.
Asked at one point during the forum if he would fight Governor Andrew Cuomo in order to get money owed to public schools, Weiner said yes, and added, "He started it."
It was a joking reference to Cuomo saying last week that if Weiner was elected, "shame on us." After which a Cuomo administration official said later, on background, that the governor had been kidding.