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Democratic City Comptroller Primary A Tale Of Dueling Characters

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It was an unlikely bid for Eliot Spitzer: a race for city comptroller, and a shot at political redemption. The former governor ended up short in his quest. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

It was unusual from the start. No press conferences, no speech. Just Eliot Spitzer on an Upper East Side sidewalk.

"I ask forgiveness for what led to my resignation, which obviously will be part of this conversation," he said on July 7.

It was five years since he left office, admitting he patronized prostitutes.

Being a pundit left him hungry. He wanted a return to politics, to what Teddy Roosevelt famously called "the arena." Spitzer tapped his family fortune, and when he secured a spot on the ballot, Spitzer declared himself back.

In Scott Stringer, Spitzer found what he dismissed as a creature of the establishment.

The Manhattan borough president, Stringer vowed early to leave the sex scandal out of the race. Faced with a big Spitzer lead, he reversed himself.

"He didn't go to the voters and say, 'Listen, as your attorney general and your governor, I was committing crimes for most of my terms,'" Stringer said during a debate on August 9.

The race wasn't much about issues. It was more about dueling characters: Spitzer, the unbought renegade, out to straighten Wall Street excesses, like he did as state attorney general, and Stringer, calling himself steady, a steward.

"I'm not going to embarrass this city," Stringer said Monday. "I'm going to do this job with great integrity."

Stringer's attacks stretched the truth, claiming, for instance, that Spitzer laundered money.

Evidence notwithstanding, Spitzer insisted his time as governor was an unrivaled success.

The race drew interest. Stringer became better known. Polls tightened, even as they showed a racial gap: black voters behind the former governor, white ones for his rival.

Spitzer's final laps spotlighted Stringer's support for overturning term limits. He didn't mince words in his final day of campaigning, speaking of Stringer's supporters.

"Those are the folks who are gutless, spineless, devoid of the backbone that our politicians should be demonstrating," Spitzer said.

But the man who won a record victory as governor was denied a lower-ballot race in the city, leaving his future, for now, unknown.

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