Please don’t stare at the Spitzer petitioning operation

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Yesterday, I asked Eliot Spitzer's campaign spokeswoman if there were any petition collectors I could follow for a while, to see what it's like to gather signatures for the most famous comptroller candidate in America.

The spokeswoman, Lisa Linden, declined, explaining, frankly, that the campaign was not looking for any additional attention to its petitioning effort.

(The Spitzer campaign has until Thursday night to collect nearly 4,000 signatures in order to get onto the ballot.)

So I went out to find some on my own. I asked on Twitter for people to tell me if they spotted Spitzer petitioners. I got responses from people who said they were at 66th Street and Broadway, by 113th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, down by Madison Square Park and out in Borough Park.

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I went over to 86th Street and Lexington, a regular petitioning spot for New York campaigns. At 8:06 p.m., I found two young men and one woman with clipboards and white sheets of paper, and round, blue Spitzer stickers. Two of them had white, square stickers with names on them: Allan and Angelina. The third person, a young man in a black shirt, did not have a name tag.

They were on the northwest corner of the intersection.

When I approached, Allan asked if I wanted to sign. I said no and identified myself as a reporter, showed my credential, and asked if I could talk with them.

All three said no and walked away.

When I asked why, Allan asked, "Why what?"

Why not talk to me, I said.

"Just the way it is, man. It is what it is. No comment," he said.

The three petitioners then walked west on 86th Street and approached people waiting for the crosstown bus. One blond woman declined Allan's invitation to sign. An older woman declined another petitioner's approach. 

The three Spitzer volunteers then walked back to their original corner, and I followed.

They stood there talking among themselves for a moment, and then Allan turned to me and told me his phone had died, and asked if he could call his mother.

I said yes and asked what number he needed to call. He gave me the number and I dialed it. It went to a voicemail message that sounded exactly like Allan's voice. I handed the phone to him. He made a comment to the other volunteers about my dialing the number instead of him. 

He spoke into the phone and said something about being home late and gave the phone back to me. (Presumably this was an elaborate way of getting my cell number, which I would happily have given him if he'd asked.)

Then the petitioners went into the train station, swiped their Metrocards, went past the turnstile and stood on the platform. I went, too.

Then the three volunteers turned around and exited, heading back upstairs.

They crossed the intersection and stood at the southwest corner of 86th and Lexington. Angelina pulled out her cell phone, which apparently was not out of power, and made a call. 

The petitioner who didn't have a name tag crossed Lexington Avenue and began walking west as the others began walking east along 86th Street. I walked east.

They walked all the way to Second Avenue, passing two plain-clothes officers and countless potential voters. They were moving, but not fast. At one point, Allan said into a cell phone, "Someone is following us."

At Second Avenue, Allan and Angelina made a right turn and walked until 82nd Street. They ducked behind some parked cars.

I stopped pursuing. 

Around 9 p.m., I called the number Allan had me dial for his mom. It went to voicemail. He did not return my message.

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