Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner are finding unexpectedly strong support in New York's black communities as they ask voters to look beyond their sexual scandals.
Weiner, who is running for mayor, and Spitzer, in a race for city comptroller, apparently are picking up support from black voters who say they deserve a second chance after scandals drove them from office, The New York Times reported
Friday citing, recent polls.
Black ministers, political leaders, and scholars have suggested that there are some major factors when it comes to supporting politicians who have troubled pasts. The Times noted there is often an emphasis in black church congregations on forgiveness, and older black voters are used to seeing their own leaders deal with scandals.
"When we as African Americans look at our history, our own Dr. Martin Luther King, or [our] own Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, there has always been something in a person’s life that others sought to use against their greater good," the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood told the Times.
The candidates have been making extra efforts to seek the black community's support.
Weiner, the former congressman who was forced to resign over his sexting scandal, held his first mayoral-campaign event at a Harlem subway stop. He spent a lot of time visiting black churches on Sundays, and has received a sympathetic response to remarks about his behavior.
Spitzer, who resigned as governor in 2008 in the wake of a prostitution scandal, is still favorably received in the black community because of some of his policies while governor and attorney general, including investigations of Police Department "stop and frisk" techniques that have been criticized as racial profiling.
But Weiner's popularity may have more to do with his scandal woes than his legislative record, many community leaders feel.
"I think on the larger scale, the African-American community is a little embittered with the political process now, so it's kind of, 'If you don't like this guy, we'll take him," said the Rev. Martin Bentley, a pastor in Queens.
Polls have shown a wide gap in how black and white voters view Spitzer and Weiner. A recent Quinnipiac University poll
showed both men were ahead in their races among black voters. The poll also showed that political corruption was viewed by blacks as being a worse offense than sexual indiscretions.
Fredrick C. Harris, a professor of political science at Columbia University and the director of its Center on African-American Politics and Society, told the Times that he believes the high number of black men who are incarcerated makes the notion of second chances even more important.
"I don’t think that African-Americans are more morally lax in their views about these issues than white voters," he said. "I just think they come at it from a different perspective, and they have a different socialization, given their everyday experiences, as well as their religious values."
However, the Rev. Al Sharpton told the Times the polls may be misleading, especially in Weiner's case, because another candidate in the mayor's race, William Thompson Jr., is black.
"I think there’s a difference between a poll six weeks out and who goes to the polls," Sharpton said. "I think that at the end of the day Thompson will probably get the majority of the black vote."
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