Spitzer cites ‘pressure’ on would-be aides, says he’s still confident he’ll get on the ballot

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Spitzer. (Azi Paybarah)
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Minutes after a new Wall Street Journal/NBC/Marist poll showed former governor Eliot Spitzer leading Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the race for New York City comptroller, Spitzer was surrounded by reporters outside his campaign's "petitioning party" in midtown, grinning, but reserved.

The survey, taken Monday and Tuesday, included 546 Democrats. Among them, Spitzer led Stringer 42-33 percent. 

After noting there were fewer reporters surrounding him than there were for his maiden campaign event Monday at Union Square—"I'm not asking for that," he added—I asked him how confident he was in the poll result.

"I'm never confident," he said. "In politics, you have to ask every day for the public's support, for their understanding of what you're trying to do."

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Spitzer is not actually even guaranteed a place on the Democratic primary ballot yet, needing first to collect nearly 4,000 valid signatures by a Thursday night deadline.

He said he was confident he would his the mark, but declined to give reporters an estimate of how many signatures he would submit. He also denied paying petitioners $800 a day for their work, a number that has been reported by some outlets.

I also asked if the fact that he's paying petitioners at all says anything about his level of support. (It's a job more normally done by unpaid volunteers.)

"Not at all," he said.

The former governor said he is confident he would get on the ballot despite "pressure having been applied to folks who had said they were going to participate, to pull out. That's OK. That's hardball politics."

Operatives Neal Kwatra and James Freedland cut their ties to the campaign after Spitzer announced his candidacy on Monday.

Asked by Times reporter Michael Barbaro if he felt his supporters were being "bullied," Spitzer, a self-proclaimed "fucking steamroller" when he was governor, said, "I don't want to characterize it."

The petition party was held at Sprig, a restaurant located inside the Lipstick building at 885 Third Avenue. A security official with the building said the property owner requested reporters not linger there. The party was closed to the press.