Weiner’s rivals still haven’t figured out how to deal with the Twitter thing

Weiner in Queens. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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If a candidate forum today was any indication, Anthony Weiner's rivals in the Democratic mayoral primary still haven't quite figured out how, or whether, to deal with him.

With 95 days left until primary day, Weiner is second place in the polls, and first, by a mile, in media and public attention. (For cause and effect, see Weiner's online search traffic in New York City over the past 30 days.)

Weiner's got issues, obviously. But his chief rivals don't quite seem prepared to address them.

This morning in Queens, Weiner joined his Democratic, Republican and Independence Party rivals at a forum, hosted by the Queens Courier and NY1 News. It was the first time all the major candidates from both parties were together since Weiner joined the race.

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At the event, the only candidate to take a direct shot at Weiner was former councilman Sal Albanese, of Bay Ridge, who is polling in the single digits.

Albanese said in order to be mayor, you need "credibility" and "he's betrayed the public trust on several occasions. I think that disqualifies him from running for mayor."

Organizers of the forum had told candidates not to attack each other and a gavel began to bang as Albanese went on the offensive. Also, some members of the audience, which was mostly made up of small-business owners from Queens, audibly grumbled. 

Weiner (jacket off, sleeves rolled up, standing when talking, showing off a watch made by a company in Queens) represented part of the borough for 13 years, but the crowd was not an automatically pro-Weiner crowd.

Quinn was honored as "Women of the Year" in 2011 by the newspaper's publisher, Vicky Schnepps. And City Comptroller John Liu is from Flushing (he literally lives within eight minutes of Terrace on the Park, where the event was held).

But Weiner didn't need to respond to Albanese. The crowd's discomfort spoke for him.

Weiner's rivals have for the most part avoided criticizing him for the Twitter mess that les to his resignation from Congress. (Just two days ago Weiner shouted down a critic in Brooklyn who asked "how dare you" run for mayor.)

None of the other speakers at the forum today made any reference to it.

Christine Quinn, who leads in public opinion polls and has refused to even say Weiner's name when asked about him, left the event after after 30 minutes. Quinn told reporters she had to get to a television studio for an interview.

After the event, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota declined to discuss Weiner, or the crowd's reaction to Albanese's remarks, noting he has his own primary to win that doesn't involve either of them.

Adolfo Carrion Jr., the former bronx borough president who left the Democratic Party and is running on the Independence Party line, said Weiner's initial lies about sending out the lewd images was "very disturbing." But that wasn't the congressman's only problem, he said, before referring to the flier Weiner distributed in a City Council race in Brooklyn shortly after the Crown Heights riots. "He used some really … racially sensitive literature that divided a community at a time when our city needed to be brought together. Let's examine that."

He said the city needs to have candidates to address issues, "What we don't need is a circus around a personality that's trying to reemerge and clean his act up."

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said he didn't want to discuss "other candidates and their background." He added, "The less we worry about the personalities and the more we get to the issues, the better."

De Blasio had offered what might have been the closest thing to a direct attack on Weiner from any of the major Democrats when, at a recent forum, he answered a question about "trust" by saying that some politicians "lost their way."