Fightin' Scott Stringer tells Spitzer to come back from L.A.

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Stringer. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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Scott Stringer continued to bait Eliot Spitzer on Friday afternoon, criticizing the former governor for a scheduled appearance on "The Tonight Show" and questioning Spitzer's commitment to helping New Yorkers after Hurricane Sandy.

"He's on Leno tonight, and that's a mistake because he really should have been with the New York guy," said Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, referring to David Letterman.

Stringer, who appeared to have an easy path to the comptroller's office before Spitzer's surprise announcement, was standing behind Brooklyn Borough Hall, surrounded by reporters for a campaign stop that was ostensibly to meet and greet voters.

"Come and fight here," Stringer said. "Let me take you to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island. Let me show you how people are struggling in this city. Get out of the ivory tower. Let's walk the streets of Coney Island. I was there during the devastation, post-Sandy, post-Sandy hurricane. I helped deliver supplies to places like Coney Island, talked to people in the Rockaways and Staten Island.

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"I was in Lower Manhattan when the lights went out," he continued.

"I saw what happened there. You couldn't get food to people. I was at City Hall working that out. We thought people were in serious jeopardy. The hospital lights went out. I was on the front lines of my borough doing that. I wasn't cutting coupons in an ivory tower. I was in the streets. That's what the comptroller has to do."

Stringer also restated his desire not to have anyone challenge the 27,000 petition signatures Spitzer submitted to the Board of Elections office last night in order to appear on the ballot, well in excess of 3,750 that is required.

"I do not believe the petitions should be challenged. So, what I want to say to you is I am ready for the fight," Stringer said. He added, "As I said last night very clearly that I have never challenged petitions for an opponent who would run against me. Wasn't going to start now. I am not afraid of this fight. Bring it on," and "I'm not someone who challenges petitions. I never have."

When pressed by a Newsday reporter if anyone would challenge Spitzer's petitions on Stringer's behalf, directly or indirectly, Stringer said no.

"I am saying to any Stringer supporter who wants to go to the Board of Elections to take a look at his petitions, don't waste your time," he said. "You shouldn't do it. We must have this race. You cannot run for comptroller in the city of New York without a robust primary challenge."

Colby Hamilton of DNAinfo asked Stringer if he thinks Spitzer is being disingenuous in positioning himself as an outsider.

"Someone should ask Tom Suozzi how much institutional support Spitzer had," said Stringer, referring to Spitzer's primary opponent in 2006, when the incumbent attorney general had the backing of nearly the entire Democratic establishment. "This is ridiculous. He is in boss fantasy land."

Stringer has been the more aggressive of the two candidates in his public statements since Spitzer announced his candidacy, lacing his better known rival for not participating in the campaign finance system and for his emotional interview on MSNBC and at times sounding like he was taking his cues from old-school pro-wrestling heels, telling him to "bring it on."

"You have a right to run. I want you to run," Stringer said today.

I asked if his professed openness to a primary challenger conflicted at all with the fact that two other candidates for the Democratic comptroller nomination were forced out of the race when Stringer opted not to run for mayor in November.

Stringer denied he or his allies pressured anyone to drop out.

"Nobody was pressured. Go call Dan Garodnick and ask if he was pressured. This is ridiculous," Stringer said, referring to one of the candidates. NY1's Josh Robin followed up and asked if Stringer, or any of his surrogates, including Rep. Jerry Nadler, "pressured Domenic Recchia to get out of the race?"

"Not at all. Not at all," Stringer said.

Also, a local reporter asked Stringer about "the coveted Lena Dunham endorsement." Dunham, the writer and actor behind Girls is a long-time friend of Stringer's spokeswoman, Audrey Gelman. Dunham endorsed Stringer, via Twitter, yesterday.

"It's a very important endorsement because she is a very thoughtful artist. She is a New York kid. When the New York people become successful, I'm proud to have that endorsement." When asked if he met Dunham, Stringer said, "Oh yeah. She's very cool."

Later, before leaving, I asked Stringer about a report that Senator Chuck Schumer called the White House to nominate New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to replace Janet Napolitano, who announced today she is leaving her post as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Stringer told me he supported Kelly for the position, although he strongly disagrees with the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.