Eliot Spitzer has made a splash over the last 48 hours, making a slew of television appearances after announcing his run for Comptroller of New York City.
But will he even get on the ballot?
Spitzer needs to get 3,750 signatures by 11:59 p.m. Thursday to make it on the ballot in a race against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. And it’s not clear that he has the infrastructure to do so.
In a late sign of innovation by his campaign, Spitzer is hosting a “Petition Party” on Wednesday evening, according to an invitation that was posted online. Sprig Restaurant and Bar confirmed the event was taking place at its location on Third Avenue in New York City.
With four full days of campaigning and in a city with more than 3 million registered Democrats, the task of getting 3,750 signatures didn’t look very tough.
But it’s quickly becoming more of a challenge than originally anticipated, while Spitzer runs around to television appearance after television appearance. Spitzer’s problems are twofold: First, there is the simple issue of time — Spitzer jumped into the race very late — and acquiring enough manpower necessary to amass 3,750 signatures.
Second, there is the issue that Spitzer, who has not been shy of making enemies throughout his political career, will be challenged even if he produces the required amount of signatures. This means that to be safe, he’ll likely have to double or even triple the 3,750 number.
On Monday during a campaign event at Union Square, Spitzer’s petition drive didn’t seem to be near full force in its rollout. Business Insider encountered only three people who were gathering petition signatures.
And when pressed on whether petitioners were at the event, Spitzer only quipped that the throng of reporters must have driven the petitioners away.
“I’ll find them!” he promised.
Spitzer campaign spokesman James Freedland didn’t respond to multiple inquiries on Tuesday about the campaign’s petition status. But one New York campaign veteran describing the process said that for Spitzer, especially, the process will be a lot harder than it seems.
The first problem is time. The campaign veteran said that even the most experienced petition-gatherers going door-to-door will get only an average of 10 signatures per day. Given that Spitzer’s campaign appears to be advertising for petitioners on Craigslist, it’s safe to say that he isn’t hiring top-flight people. Even street petitioning will only garner an average of 100 signatures per day.
And street petitioning leads to another set of problems — the “nitpicky” rules that would likely threaten a number of Spitzer’s petitions. For one, people must sign petitions with the address at which they are registered to vote — not at which they currently reside. With so much movement year-to-year among New York voters, this becomes a problem.
This all brings up a larger potential hitch. Here’s an example of a petition sheet. If the witness statement — from the person collecting the signatures — is filled out at all incorrectly, it invalidates the whole sheet. That’s why it becomes important to have trained petitioners, or to have time to train them.
“I’ve knocked off someone who had double the required number of signatures,” the campaigner said.
The signature-gathering process has been made even more complicated by the fact that Spitzer’s hastily launched campaign seems highly disorganized. Neal Kwatra, a top New York City political adviser who originally signed on to the campaign, has reportedly left.
Spitzer himself and his campaign won’t say who is running their petition drive. Neither of the individuals listed as hosting the event — Marius Muresanu and Susan Horsfall — replied to email inquiries.
Spitzer was confident on Monday that he’d get the signatures. On Tuesday, he and his campaign were nowhere to be found.
“Oh, yeah,” Spitzer said, when asked by a reporter who asked if he thought he would be able to get enough signatures. “We have four days. We’re going to be out here every day. I have folks working for me.”
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