City Comptroller Scott Stringer seemed to have righted his bid for Gracie Mansion in recent days.
He scored a key endorsement from the city’s powerful teachers union. A new poll from NY1 seemed to affirm his theory of the race and showed him doing well in the Big Apple’s new ranked-voting system. And his campaign finally hit the airwaves, countering the wave of free publicity that front-runner Andrew Yang has scored since his entry.
That momentum was stopped in its tracks when Jean Kim, 49, stepped forward with allegations that Stringer sexually harassed her repeatedly during his failed 2001 bid for Public Advocate — including asking her: “Why won’t you f— me?’
The scandal took an immediate toll on the lifelong politician’s mayoral ambitions as one of his earliest and most vocal supporters, state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), announced she was pulling her endorsement — and other boosters said they were reexamining their commitment.
Stringer has $7.4 million in his campaign war chest — ensuring that he’ll be able to pay for ads, mailers and staff through the primary as he battles to stay in the race.
But, even with the cash, the fallout is likely to continue, two top experts said.
“It’s very difficult to stay on message when you have to answer charges of this sort. And this is particularly damaging for someone who aligned himself so closely to the party’s progressive wing and put himself on the forefront of women’s issues,” said Professor David Birdsell, the chair of the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at CUNY-Baruch. “This timing couldn’t be worse. His first ad dropped yesterday.”
“He wanted to be talking about the march to primary day over the next seven weeks and this is all that many people are going to want him to talk about,” he added. “You can be reasonably certain that this is going to be a question asked at the debates.”
Losing control of the campaign’s message would turn any candidacy into a challenge.
But this scandal strikes at the heart of Stringer’s efforts in recent years to redefine his political persona by lending his institutional gravitas to high-wattage lefty primary challenges against establishment candidates.
And it paid off.
The oft-young and minority candidates won — including Ramos — and returned the favor by backing the mayoral candidacy of a 60-year-old, Upper West Sider from a family entrenched in city politics.
(Stringer’s recently deceased mother was a City Councilwoman and he is well known for mentioning that iconoclastic former Congresswoman Bella Abzug was a cousin.)
“The danger here that everything he’s done to overcome the fact he’s a 60-plus white man, it could come undone,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic strategist. “It’s not that he can’t come back — it’s can he get the left to come back. Now it’s going to be hard.”
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