For all the publicity Eliot Spitzer's late-starting bid for New York City comptroller is drawing, the disgraced former governor of New York is in no way certain to be elected.
Having filed more than 27,000 signatures on petitions to qualify for the Sept. 10 Democratic primary ballot, Spitzer finds himself facing a challenge on the accuracy of those signatures.
E. O'Brien Murray, a New York Republican strategist known in political circles as "O.B.," claimed he found multiple errors in the signatures. With only 3,750 certified signatures required to secure a ballot spot, Spitzer, however, should survive this challenge.
The former governor then has to face Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who secured the endorsement of nearly every elected Democrat in New York after abandoning the mayoral race to run for comptroller.
As one Gotham wag told Newsmax, "Stringer's website lists just about every elected Democrat as a supporter with the exceptions of Eliot Spitzer and Judge Crater," referring to Joseph F. Crater, the celebrated New York Supreme Court justice who got into a cab on August 5, 1930 and was never seen again.
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But a just-completed Quinnipiac Poll shows that, among likely Democratic city primary voters, Spitzer leads Stringer by a margin of 48 percent to 33 percent. Incredibly for a politician driven from the governorship after admitting he spent thousands of dollars on prostitutes, Spitzer actually leads Stringer among women by a margin of 44 percent to 32 percent.
The same survey showed Spitzer leading among men by 53 percent to 33 percent and doing especially well among black voters 61 percent to 26 percent.
Quinnipiac also showed another contender brought down amid controversy leading among Democrats in the primary for New York City mayor. Anthony Weiner, who resigned from Congress in 2011 after admitting he sent inappropriate pictures of himself on Twitter, tops the mayoral race with 25 percent, followed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at 22 percent, and 2009 nominee Bill Thompson at 11 percent.
Whether that lead can hold up for two months of negative media broadsides is questionable. Even if Spitzer wins the Democratic nomination, he could fall victim to New York's multiple party system.
Under election law that is common to only four other states, a candidate can appear on the ballot lines of several parties and have the aggregate votes from each applied to him.
So Stringer could keep running in November even if he loses the Democratic primary. He already has the Working Families Party line and seems certain to get that of the Independence Party, which evolved from Ross Perot's independent presidential campaign in 1992.
Further complicating the situation is that the Green Party has nominated Julia Willibrand for comptroller and the nominee of the Libertarian Party is Kristin Davis, the madam who made Spitzer notorious as "Client No. 9."
But the comptroller candidate who may benefit the most in a crowded race is John Burnett, former Wall Street executive. Assured of the Republican nomination and very likely to carry the standard of the Conservative Party, Burnett of Harlem has an impressive rags-to-riches story — from selling cookies for a living to graduating with honors from New York University to executive positions with firms such as Dean Witter and McGraw Hill.
The last time someone won one of the three citywide offices in New York on the Republican line was 1969, when registered Democrat and former city policeman Sanford Garelik was the winning Republican nominee for city council president, a post which was later abolished.
"Notoriety has earned the 'Tabloid Twins,' former Gov. Eliot Spitzer as Client 9 and former congressman Anthony 'Tweets' Weiner, good initial numbers in the polls," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, told CNN after the poll results were released. "Whether those numbers hold up in the real poll on primary Election Day is the big question."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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