NY1's Grace Rauh last night caught up exclusively with Anthony Weiner on the Upper West Side at one of his first fundraisers since he launched his campaign for mayor just two weeks ago. Although he already has about $4 million in his campaign coffers, Weiner wants to raise more money to ensure that he can spend the legal maximum for the Sept. 10th primary – as well as have more cash on hand for a likely runoff.
These fundraisers are important for Weiner far beyond just raising money. To win, not only is Weiner going to have to overcome the embarrassment of his sexting scandal but so will voters who may actually like him but don't want to admit it publicly. While there will likely be no major Weiner rallies anytime soon, these fundraising events can almost serve as political 12-step support groups for those who like Weiner but have been somewhat hesitant to say so.
"We've looked at his record, and not his personality, and his record has always been toward helping the regular person,'' one supporter, Frances Garthaffner, told Rauh.
While the Weiner kumbaya spirit may have been high at the event, his choice of fundraising bundlers wasn't so warm and fuzzy. Leonard Schwartz, the chairman of the state tobacco association, was the man behind the event at Loi Restaurant. And in the current public health climate created by Mayor Bloomberg, selling tobacco is just about one step removed from being a crack peddler.
Weiner emphasized the fact that Schwartz is a tobacco wholesaler and not a manufacturer, telling Rauh: " These are small businesses that get the tobacco to sell, so it's not like they are Philip Morris or anything like that." But – to use drug parlance -- is a dealer that much different than a seller?
Besides last night's fundraiser, Weiner attended a Democratic club meeting in Brooklyn where he was ripped by district leader Chris Owens.
"I am outraged and disgusted by you,” Owens told Weiner. “Both by what you did and by the fact that you have the arrogance to run for mayor."
Weiner got booed after noting that this attack could be political payback by Owens because Weiner snubbed him seven years ago and endorsed Yyvette Clarke for Congress. And Weiner snapped at a supporter of Bill de Blasio who was grilling him: " You’re supporting another candidate — who’s not going to win."
Last night showed that while Weiner may look healthy in the polls, he still has a big fight on his hands to appear viable to many voters. Holding small fundraisers and other events, Weiner is bargaining that there's safety in numbers.