“You guys see the headline in the Post? Weiner Rising?”
It’s late afternoon on a Monday at W’s, meaning it’s “hit or miss,” according to the bartender, in terms of the number of customers that might file in for a post-work beverage. There are six men sitting at the bar having what passes as a political discussion for the W’s crowd. They bandy about some of the names mentioned as potential successors to Michael Bloomberg. Because of some pun-soaked headlines and a recent surge in press coverage, former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s name comes up, as well as that of Christine Quinn.
“Here’s to our next mayor, Christine Quinn,” one patron says, lifting a shot glass to toast the City Council Speaker and current Democratic frontrunner for mayor in the polls.
The discourse on politics does not extend much beyond a cursory round-up of the most visible candidates. It is still early in the mayoral race, with roughly five months to go until the primary election. For those who follow New York City politics with a mere passing interest, the candidates to replace Bloomberg are little more than names and faces at this juncture. Weiner, however, is one name that is difficult to forget.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” says Matt Moore, a retired New York City firefighter and current groundskeeper at the Monmouth Race Track in New Jersey, referring to Weiner. Most of the men at the bar today seem to view this reporter with a certain wariness, or simply don’t want their name printed anywhere other than their driver’s license and social security card. Moore is the exception, an approachable, genial man eager to converse. At the mention of Weiner, Moore brings up another name from disgraced congressional lore, Vito Fossella, holding him up as an example of a politician who, like Weiner, fell victim to his own extracurricular activities.
“[The personal troubles] wouldn’t prevent me from voting for him,” Moore says, while making it clear that he was very much undecided on who to vote for this fall.
Moore is a unique voter in that not only does he eschew party lines and cast his ballot for whichever candidate he feels serves his best interest, but he also makes sure to write himself in as a candidate in every election. While this move is partly done in jest, it reflects a larger mistrust of politicians that was reinforced in recent weeks with the arrest of state Sen. Malcolm Smith and Queens Councilman Dan Halloran on bribery and corruption charges.
“It’s fifty-fifty with politicians right now,” Moore says. “They get in [office] and wanna do good, but once they get that taste of power…” His voice trails off in a foreboding manner, before adding, “And they get their pension? I think it’s wrong.”
Moore grows nostalgic for a time when citizens could truly hold their leaders accountable for these public missteps.
“They should put [the disgraced politicians] in front of City Hall and let us throw [stuff] at them like the old days.”
Circling back to Weiner, Moore says that it is no surprise that he is considering running for mayor. He says the expectation of public officials who make mistakes is “We’re politicians, they’ll forgive us.”
With the paucity of women patrons at W’s, it’s difficult to get an accurate take on how female voters would view Anthony Weiner as a mayoral candidate. After all, it’s fair to assume that some might think twice about voting for a married man that text messaged pictures of his genitals to several different women.
As the bartender empties ice buckets behind the bar, she doesn’t seem to show much interest in the discussion at hand. Asked if she would have a problem voting for Weiner in an election – hypothetically, that is, being that she’s a New Jersey resident – the bartender offers a blunt assessment of politicians like Weiner who become embroiled in sex scandals.
“It’s no different than what any of these other guys are doing,” she said. “As long as he shows that he can run a city, it shouldn’t matter.”
Reinforcing this opinion about Weiner, a woman named Loretta, a New York City public school teacher who was loading groceries into her car in the parking lot adjacent to W’s, said that she would be open to hearing what he had to say rather than dismissing his candidacy altogether.
“I don’t know. I would have to see what his credentials are, rather than what he did on his Facebook or Instagram or whatever it was. I didn’t really know anything about his credentials until that incident,” Loretta said. “I’d have to learn more about him before I made a decision. He obviously made a mistake.”
It’s difficult to say whether the opinions of these few voters in this small corner of Staten Island are an indication of a larger forgiving view on Weiner’s infidelities, but if nothing else, it’s clear that thanks to his well-timed media blitz, the former congressman is registering in the minds of voters as a face and a name that commands attention.