Customers on the Upper West Side know what they want when they take a seat at Artie’s Deli.
They order the matzo ball soup, a pastrami or turkey sandwich on rye with coleslaw, and maybe a little chopped liver.
But when it comes to picking the next mayor, many haven’t made a choice–and they’re not thrilled with what’s on the menu.
“Everyone is picking the one they find least objectionable,” said an Artie’s customer named Beatrice, who declined to give her last name. “That’s the way it is. It’s very sad. This is a great city and I love it with a passion. We deserve better than the candidates that are running. Politics being it is what it is today, I understand why people are reluctant to run.”
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Jewish, Queens-born media savvy Democrat, might have been a natural choice for Upper West Side voters who have cast their ballots before for similarly progressive candidates to represent them.
Weiner had the support of 15 percent of Democratic mayoral primary voters, second behind Council Speaker Christine Quinn, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. But 41 percent of voters viewed him unfavorably, compared with 33 percent who liked him. He has not publicly declared his intentions to run for office.
The poll reflects the sentiments of West Side residents, who remain wary of the man whose lewd tweeting cover-up forced him from Congress.
“What am I supposed to say to that – that this guy’s actually going to get elected mayor?” Artie’s customer Richard Shandell asked. “I can’t believe what he did. He’s so incredibly stupid.”
Shandell said Weiner’s scandal was “crazier” than President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern.
“What Weiner did to me is sheer unadulterated nuts,” he said. “I understand how you can fool around with a young woman in your office, but I can’t understand at all why you would do the thing that Weiner did. Nothing against him, but I wouldn’t consider voting for an asshole like that.”
Artie’s customers Chris Kachulis and Bess Charalambakis, who are brother and sister, say they could forgive Weiner in time, but not this election cycle.
“I think he’s very smart, but I don’t think so,” Kachulis said when asked whether he would support Weiner. “It’s too questionable.”
Charalambakis said she thought Weiner has “too much baggage.”
“He’s going to have to answer a lot of questions,” she said. “Some of them won’t be pretty. In 10 years, we’ll tell if things have changed. He has to do a lot more.”
Both said they were leaning toward former City Comptroller Bill Thompson in the Democratic primary.
“We don’t always agree, but on that we do,” Kachulis said.
Some of Artie’s waiters were in a more forgiving mood than their customers, but even they could not condone Weiner’s actions.
“It doesn’t show good character, plus he’s married so I guess it was the best thing for him to resign,” Joshua Carnival, an Artie’s employee, said. “If he has the best interests for the city, if he has good plans, then yeah, why not [run for mayor]? Personal and business shouldn’t mix. So his personal life shouldn’t be anybody’s business as long as his business is being handled correctly.”
Christina Vidal, a new waitress who started at Artie’s this week, said she has not been paying attention to the mayor’s race so far this year, but she plans on voting in the Democratic primary in September. She has ruled out Weiner because of the scandal.
“I don’t think he should be mayor for that,” she said. “That’s not presentable.”
The reluctance of Artie’s customers and wait staff to support a potential Weiner candidacy does not surprise the restaurant’s manager Barry Orenstein. He says most customers have not made up their minds.
“There’s no chalk in the race yet,” he said.
Orenstein used to like Weiner because of his tirades on the floor of Congress against Republican policies.
But not anymore.
“How do you trust a person, regardless of what they do, who is such a liar?” he asked. “Politicians have reputations for lying, but I don’t think he has any street cred.”
“It’s not even lying but his stupidity,” Orenstein added. “How did he expect that when he went on Twitter it wouldn’t be immediately shown all over. That’s the whole concept of social networking. How did somebody so smart make such a stupid mistake?”
That’s the question still on the minds of many Upper West Side residents. Orenstein is leaning toward Thompson, but he wants to see the candidates discuss more issues of substance in the remaining mayoral forums.
“There’s no meat,” he said. “I want the Wendy’s Commercial, ‘Where’s the beef?’ There’s nothing there.”
And Orenstein knows meat.
“It’s like a Peggy Lee song,” he said. ” ‘Is that all there is?’ I want something substantive.”