RSS Feeds

Wives of Spitzer, Weiner scrutinized in NYC races

Saturday - 7/20/2013, 11:10pm  ET

FILE - In this March 12, 2008, file photo, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announces his resignation amid a prostitution scandal as his wife Silda stands by at the governor’s office in New York. Silda Wall Spitzer, who stood by her husband during the announcement, is nowhere to be found on the campaign trail as the former governor attempts a political comeback as New York City comptroller. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin, File)

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two New York City political wives, forever linked by their husbands' humiliating scandals, are taking very different roles in their spouses' improbable political comebacks.

Silda Wall Spitzer, who famously stood by husband Eliot Spitzer in 2008 when he stepped down as governor in a prostitution scandal, hasn't been seen in the early days of his campaign for city comptroller, though Spitzer insists she's supportive.

Huma Abedin, who was notably absent when husband Anthony Weiner resigned his congressional seat in 2011 after he acknowledged sending lewd Twitter photos to women, has been a key player in his surging mayoral run. She's appeared in his campaign launch video, raised tens of thousands of dollars and joined him on the campaign trail.

The two women, who have no known relationship, will have little choice but to occupy the spotlight again before Election Day -- and they may affect their husbands' chances to regain office.

"When the significant other forgives you, it makes your road back in politics that much easier," said Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University. "If the wife goes on the campaign trail or seems really supportive, it makes a huge difference. If she doesn't, it may raise doubts with women."

To many, Wall Spitzer's anguished appearance at her husband's side when he admitted paying for sex with prostitutes, is the archetype of the sad genre of wronged political wives, so much so that it helped inspire the CBS drama "The Good Wife." She largely vanished from the public eye after that moment, briefly resurfacing for a Vogue photo spread the following year titled "The Survivor."

As Eliot Spitzer, 54, struggled to adapt to a post-political life, bouncing around the TV dial from MSNBC to CNN to Current TV, Wall Spitzer happily returned to a quieter existence. A former corporate lawyer, she poured herself into her children's charity and returned to the business world, eventually finding a home at New World Capital Group, a private equity group where she focuses on investments in clean energy.

She agreed to her husband's surprising comeback only hours before he announced it to the world this month, according to a person close to the campaign who was not authorized to speak about Spitzer's personal life. Wall Spitzer has offered suggestions about Spitzer's campaign and collected a pair of petitions to get him on the ballot. One of the couple's three daughters rounded up about 100 signatures.

But Wall Spitzer, 55, has shunned the campaign trail and has yet to grant any interviews about her husband, which stands in stark contrast to her frequent appearances at Spitzer's side during his previous runs for attorney general and governor.

Her silence has fueled speculation that their marriage is on the rocks. The couple lives apart -- she at the family home on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, he at his sick elderly parents' home a few blocks away -- though Spitzer firmly denied a published report that the couple was separated.

"Regarding Silda's dearth of appearances on the campaign, there has been a maelstrom of media attention focused on Eliot's entry into the race," said Lisa Linden, the campaign's spokeswoman. "He has no desire to bring his family into the media frenzy at this time."

Linden did not say when, or if, the former New York first lady would campaign for her husband. Spitzer has acknowledged the "hurt" he caused his wife but said she would soon join him on the trail.

Wall Spitzer didn't respond to a request for comment.

"No one will forget that press conference; having her get back out there is a lot to ask," said Christina Greer, professor at Fordham University. "She could be saying, 'I did it once. I was raked over the coals, with people analyzing my scarf, my jewelry, my tears. You want to get back out there? Fine, but don't expect me to do it with you.'"

Spitzer's primary rival, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, campaigned with his wife the day after Spitzer announced his bid.

Experts differ as to how much Wall Spitzer's absence will matter.

"Is it a sign she thinks he'll do it again?" Schiller asked. "Has he really learned his lesson? It could signal to women that she has doubts about his character."

Political strategist Bill Cunningham, a former adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said voters pick a candidate based on the spouse and don't care if they are there.

"A role of a spouse is a lot like chicken soup amid an array of medicines," Cunningham said. "It doesn't hurt, but whether or not it has profound value is unclear."

   1 2  -  Next page  >>