You can certainly make a compelling case that Anthony Weiner should not have to give up his seat in Congress or his career in elected politics because of the online photo scandal that has engulfed him this week.
But if this does end up being the end for Weiner’s public career, it might not be quite the injustice it seems like — at least if you know how his career began.
Twenty years ago, Weiner was a young aide to an ambitious, still somewhat obscure Brooklyn congressman named Charles Schumer. After working in Washington for a few years, he’d been dispatched to Sheepshead Bay to run Schumer’s local office. It was Schumer’s idea; Weiner had told him that he wanted to enter politics and was considering moving to Florida, where the 1990 census would soon produce several new congressional seats in areas where a New York transplant with the name Weiner could probably do well. Schumer said he was better off returning to Brooklyn, where Weiner was from originally, and establishing himself there.
Weiner’s opening came in 1991, when the City Council was radically expanded, from 35 to 51 seats. One of the new districts, the 48th, would be in Southern Brooklyn. It was a neat match for Weiner. The new seat was in the heart of Schumer’s district, there was no incumbent, and the population was heavily Jewish. He jumped in the race.
He was not the favorite. Two other candidates with more name recognition, deeper ties to the community, stronger organizational support, and bigger bankrolls seemed to have the inside track: Michael Garson (the candidate of the Brooklyn Democratic organization) and Adele Cohen (the favorite of a progressive/labor coalition that backed candidates across the city in ’91). It was a low-profile race, but Weiner attracted positive reviews, aggressively campaigning and using his performer’s flair to steal the show at debates and candidate forums. But as the all-important Sept. 10 Democratic primary approached, the consensus was that he’d come up short and that, as Newsday put it in an editorial endorsing one of his opponents, he should “try again next time.”