NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer won the Democratic primary for New York City comptroller, ending disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s surprise bid to reclaim his political career.
Stringer led Spitzer 52 percent to 48 percent, according to incomplete and unofficial returns Tuesday night, with 92 percent of precincts reporting.
Stringer has spent 20 years as borough president and a state assemblyman. He was heavily favored in the comptroller race before Spitzer jumped into it in July.
Stringer portrayed himself as a knowledgeable public servant and emphasized the prostitution scandal that spurred Spitzer’s 2008 resignation.
The resignation came after Spitzer was identified as a client of an escort service under federal investigation. He was never charged but later acknowledged that he had paid for sex.
Stringer will face Republican and other candidates in November.
Since Spitzer’s abrupt decision in July to run, he and Stringer have been locked in one of the fiercest political wrestling matches in the city this year.
Exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research for the Associated Press and other news organizations showed the vote divided by race, with Spitzer leading among black voters by a wide margin and Stringer carrying the white vote by a similarly large spread.
Hispanics were split about evenly between the two.
Spitzer asked voters to focus on his record as a hard-charging governor and state attorney general. He was dubbed “the sheriff of Wall Street” for his financial investigations.
That resonated with Paulette Esrig, 81, a retired schoolteacher who voted for him Tuesday at a precinct in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
“I picked him not because I approve of his personal life at all, but I felt he was well-qualified,” she said.
But other voters said Spitzer’s past scandal drove them to pull levers for Stringer, even if they didn’t know much about him despite his 20 years in public office. “He’s not my favorite, but I think Spitzer is an abomination,” said Jullian Stark, 55, a college biology professor, who also voted in Chelsea.
Stringer says he has mastered both fighting for causes and forging compromises during his years in public office.
And he has urged New Yorkers not to forgive or forget his opponent’s personal misdeeds.
“I didn’t resign in disgrace,” Stringer said at a candidate forum last week.