Comptroller Campaign Roundtable

The last-minute surprise entry of former Governor Eliot Spitzer into the race for comptroller required rapid strategic restructuring for the other campaigns and led to an unexpectedly heated Democratic primary race. The discussion at the roundtable included reflections on the contrasts between and among three highly qualified candidates; the ups and downs of press coverage; the impact of name recognition and personal notoriety; the role of public campaign financing, and the impact of a well-executed earned-media strategy.

Milano Assistant Professor of Politics and Advocacy Jeff Smith moderated the discussion, which included representatives from the Stringer, Spitzer and Burnett campaigns.

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The Center will soon publish a full transcript of the event’s discussion, which will be available in print and online. Check back here for updates.

—List of participants—

Moderator: Jeff Smith, New School professor, City & State columnist

Panelists by campaign:

Stringer 2013

  • Sascha Owen
  • Anson Kaye
  • Audrey Gelman

Eliot Spitzer for New York City Comptroller

  • Chris Miller
  • Jimmy Siegel

John Burnett for New York City Comptroller

  • Shawn Roseburgh
  • Richard St. Paul

2013 Comptroller election vote share & turnout for Scott Stringer


—2013 New York City Comptroller Campaign: Timeline—


November 18, 2012

Stringer announces he no longer intends to run for mayor, but will be running for comptroller in 2013, challenging City Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) who had already announced his comptroller run.

November 28, 2012 Garodnick, the first declared candidate in the race, drops out and endorses Stringer for comptroller.

February 14, 2013 The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) “overwhelmingly” vote to endorse Stringer for comptroller.

February 22, 2013 1199 SEIU enthusiastically endorses Stringer for comptroller, adding to a growing list of prominent endorsements.

March 17, 2012 Current comptroller John Liu announces he will be running for mayor and will not seek reelection for comptroller.

July 7, 2013 Spitzer announces his entry into the comptroller’s race, four days before petitions requiring 3,750 valid signatures are due.

July 11, 2013 Wall Street Journal (WSJ)/NBC/Marist poll reports Spitzer leading Stringer 42% to 33%, with a quarter of voters undecided. 67% of voters think that Spitzer should be given a second chance. More than 2 in 5 Democrats have not heard of Stringer.

Spitzer surprises many by getting 27,000 signatures in 4 days. Stringer has 100,000 signatures, and says they were all gathered by volunteers; encourages his supporters to not challenge Spitzer’s signatures.

July 15, 2013 Quinnipiac poll reports Spitzer lead, with 48% to Stringer’s 33%. 62% of those polled said they didn’t know enough about Stringer to form an opinion about him.

Former AIG Chairman Hank Greenberg files a defamation lawsuit against Spitzer.

July 19, 2013 Spitzer’s first TV ad debuts, to air citywide on basic cable, and highlights his Attorney General career while suggesting that the “corridors of power” will resist his candidacy.

July 21, 2013 Twitter controversy erupts between campaigns, with Spitzer spokesman Hari Sevugan targeting Stringer spokeswoman Audrey Gelman for her appearances in various magazines and on the hit show ‘Girls.’

July 22, 2013 National Organization for Women (NOW), National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood jointly announce their endorsement of Stringer, calling it “an easy choice.”

Senator Gillibrand endorses Stringer citing his "temperament and judgment"

July 23, 2013 Spitzer makes first actual campaign stop in 2 weeks, talks to voters and stops traffic in Jackson Heights; vows to go to every borough this week and every week until primary.

July 25, 2013 Marist/WSJ/NBC reports Spitzer has support 49% of registered Democrats, versus Stringer at 32%. Quinnipiac poll reports that while 49% of voters support Spitzer, 45% support Stringer, and finds that Stringer’s voters are more committed.

July 26, 2013 Stringer books $2.2M of TV ad time.

July 23, 2013 NYT reports the creation of two new superPACs to oppose Spitzer. ForwardNY (business and women’s groups) and Progress NYC (1199, 32BJ, HTC, UFT). Collectively, say they will spend at least $1.5M in hopes of leveling the playing field against Spitzer’s self-financed campaign

August 3, 2013 Floyd Flake quietly withdraws his endorsement of Spitzer, says that he has decided to remain neutral in the race

August 6, 2013 Spitzer tells Campaign Finance Board (CFB) he does not intend to spend over $12 million, but will not be legally bound to this limit. If Spitzer were to spend $12 million, Stringer would have no spending cap in the race.

Civil Services Employees Association, largest statewide public-sector union, endorses Spitzer.

Stringer hosts Manhattan fundraiser with many celebrities in attendance, including Lena Dunham, who gets loudest applause of the evening.

August 7, 2013 2 more new ads from Spitzer. Both ads highlight political establishment’s visceral opposition to Mr. Spitzer’s candidacy.

August 8, 2013 NYT/Siena poll reports Spitzer with 44% support to Stringer’s 35%. Spitzer has strong support among black voters, at 57%, and 37% support from white voters. Older voters support Spitzer, and there is no significant difference between men and women.

August 9, 2013 Politicker reports that “super-PAC-like-groups” have spent $80,000 in support of Stringer, who condemns all spending outside of campaign finance.

First televised comptroller primary debate.

August 10, 2013 New York Post reports that the Spitzer campaign has already spent over $2.5M, including more than $270,000 to get on ballot.

August 12, 2013 Second primary debate, at CUNY, is no more civil than the first.

Spitzer repeatedly brings up Stringer’s support for midtown rezoning in debate, Crain’s suggests that is because of internal polling showing that the rezoning is unpopular, even if it has nothing to do with the job of comptroller.

August 14, 2013 Quinnipiac poll reports Spitzer ahead of Stringer, 56% to 37%. “Everyone seems to be against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer except the voters, especially black voters,” pollster Maurice Carroll declared in a statement while pointing to Spitzer’s heavy ad spending. “Spitzer is all over the TV screens, building on his better name recognition and leaving Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the dust.”

August 15, 2013 The Campaign Finance Board approves more matching funds for Stringer and raises primary spending cap due to rate at which Spitzer is spending his own money.

August 16, 2013 Atlantic Wire reports that Spitzer’s book, released 2 days after his announcement to run for comptroller, has sold just 70 copies to date.

August 18, 2013 NYT, the New York Post, and The New York Daily News endorse Stringer.

August 19, 2013 New York Post reports that African-American Democrats, led by Keith Wright, are being more vocal in their support of Stringer after numerous reports show that Spitzer’s lead is largely because of black likely voters.

Former NY Governor (and once Spitzer’s Lt. Governor) David Paterson reiterates a somewhat lukewarm endorsement of Stringer.

August 22, 2013 Third primary debate. When pressed, Spitzer says he’d agree, because of his vast personal wealth, to a salary of $1 a year as comptroller.

August 26, 2013 New York Post reports that officially neutral Cuomo is now “actively helping” Stringer.

August 27, 2013 Citizens Union endorses Stringer.

August 28, 2013 Quinnipiac poll finds race in a dead heat, with Stringer making significant gains, including nearly doubling his support from black voters in the past 2 weeks.

AmNewYork-News 12 poll has similar results, with Spitzer leading by only 3 points.

August 30, 2013 NYT/Siena poll reports very different results, with Spitzer maintaining his significant advantage, 50% to Stringer’s 35%.

September 4, 2013 Quinnipiac poll shows Stringer and Spitzer in dead heat. Candidates face off for a final debate.

September 9, 2013 In new Quinnipiac poll, Stringer takes the lead, with 50% support to Spitzer’s 43%. Maurice Carroll proclaiming that Stringer “has the momentum.”

September 10, 2013 - Primary Stringer wins with 52% of vote, to Spitzer’s 48%. Spitzer spent over $10 million of own money on race.

October 8, 2013 Burnett and Stringer face off in a televised debate on NY1.

October 30, 2013 NYT endorses Stringer for comptroller, saying he will bring the “right mix of experience, doggedness, political skills and integrity,” to the job.

October 31, 2013 New York Post endorses Burnett.

November 5, 2013 - Election Day Stringer is elected Comptroller with 76% of vote.


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