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- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced he’s running for president.
- Earlier this week, former Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York was released from a Bronx halfway house after serving a prison sentence for sexting an teenage girl.
- In 2013, Weiner was the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York, but a second sexting scandal soon cratered his campaign.
- De Blasio swooped in as the progressive alternative in the race and pulled off a stunning upset win.
- Now in his second term, De Blasio might never have been elected mayor without Weiner’s implosion.
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It’s hard to believe nowadays, but Anthony Weiner stood a very good chance of being elected mayor of New York in 2013.
The seven-term congressman from Queens resigned in disgrace two years earlier after he accidentally tweeted a photo of his crotch, which he thought he was sent as a Direct Message to a woman he had never met in person. At the time, Weiner was married to longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who for several years stood by his side during his humiliating fall from grace (they have since initiated and called-off divorce proceedings, but remain legally married today).
Remarkably, just two years after his resignation from Congress, Weiner’s public displays of contrition were largely accepted by New York City Democrats who were fed-up with the technocratic centrism of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and looking for a progressive alternative.
Christine Quinn, then-Speaker of the New York City Council, was a well-known fixture in New York City politics and considered Bloomberg’s heir apparent when she ran for mayor in 2013. But voters resented her role in the City Council acquiescing to Bloomberg in his quest for a third term, which they felt thwarted the democratic will of the people who voted to limit mayors to two terms. (Shortly after Bloomberg won his third term, the two-term limit was reinstated.)
In late June 2013, Weiner led the Democratic field, polling at 25% to Quinn’s 20%. De Blasio polled a distant fourth, with 10%.
Then "Carlos Danger" happened.
Weiner was revealed to have again been sexting a woman he never met, in this case Sydney Leather, while using the pseudonym Carlos Danger.
The progressives and anti-Bloomberg voters who had been Weiner’s base instead supported De Blasio, who even while serving as the city’s public advocate was still a relatively obscure figure.
De Blasio won the primary in a landslide with over 40% of the vote, with Quinn finishing a distant third with 15.5%. A second shot at redemption was denied to Weiner, who inexplicably remained in the race until the September primary, where he finished in fifth place with less than 5% of the vote.
The general election two months later wasn’t any closer, with De Blasio besting Republican Joe Lhota with 73.3% of the vote.
Now in his second term, De Blasio is running for president, despite being underwater in favorability ratings both in his home city and nationally.
However quixotic De Blasio’s presidential ambitions may be, he’s doing better than Weiner, who this very week left a Bronx halfway house following a 21-month federal prison stint for sexting with a 15-year-old girl.
While the lives and careers of the two New York Democrats have taken remarkably different paths since they were primary opponents six years ago, those paths remain inextricably linked to that fateful campaign.
Without Weiner’s 2013 implosion, De Blasio probably doesn’t get elected mayor, much less launch a campaign for president.
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