ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The race is over for Eric Garcetti but it's just beginning for Anthony Weiner. The former New York congressman, who left office in 2011 after a series of raunchy tweets, says that he will run for mayor of New York City. The announcement came with an online video after a month of interviews and articles in which Weiner sought redemption.
NPR's Margot Adler reports.
MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: Anthony Weiner's campaign video is well made and compelling. As a middle-class kid growing up in Brooklyn, he says, I thought we had it all.
(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)
ANTHONY WEINER: Playing stickball late into the night and if we were lucky, a Mets game on the weekend.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
WEINER: I went to PS 39. My mom was a schoolteacher for 31 years in public schools just like this.
ADLER: Weiner talks about affordable health care, how he got more cops on the beat, and helped 9/11 first responders, and then he says this.
(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)
WEINER: Look, I made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down. But I've also learned some tough lessons. I am running for mayor because I have been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life. And I hope to get a second chance to work for you.
ADLER: The ad even has Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, a former aid to Hillary Clinton, speaking on his behalf. Weiner starts out with some $5 million in campaign funds and he joins a crowded field for the Democratic primary.
In a very recent Quinnipiac University poll, City Council speaker Christine Quinn leads the pack of mayoral candidates with 25 percent; Anthony Weiner is next with 15 percent, and the rest are further down. Forty-nine percent say Weiner should not run.
But Kenneth Sherrill, a professor of political science at Hunter College, says the poll is based on registered voters, not likely voters.
KENNETH SHERRILL: And given how low turnout in primaries usually is, I wouldn't put much stock in that poll at all.
ADLER: At a coffee shop on the Upper East Side, some, like Karen Hillman, said the news was unexpected.
KAREN HILLMAN: I was kind of surprised.
ADLER: Would you vote for him?
HILLMAN: I don't know.
ADLER: But others, like Larry Roth and Pat Coatsworth, could not put Weiner's indiscretions out of the way - his sexual tweets to various women and his lies that he was hacked.
LARRY ROTH: He had his opportunity. Can't they just go away, be a lobbyist, be a lawyer, go to Wall Street? Just do something. But they should just stay out of our lives again.
PAT COATSWORTH: I think he lacks total judgment and he would not get my vote under any circumstance.
ADLER: But not so fast. Political scientist Kenneth Sherrill says Weiner has always wanted to be mayor and this is his chance. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is out. There's no incumbent, there are many candidates. He has a shot of getting into a primary run off and if he does that, he has a shot of getting into the general election.
SHERRILL: It may seem farfetched to people who believe that voters are rational. Anybody who underestimates him is making a serious mistake.
ADLER: And here's why, he says. After 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, as Sherrill puts it, however noble can seem imperious, there's a place for a combative candidate who appeals to angry voters.
SHERRILL: When he says I'll stand up for people like you, it seems credible. There are a lot of voters, particularly in the outer boroughs, who are going to be responsive to that kind of appeal.
ADLER: Sherrill also has a hunch that most of the candidates won't want to get their hands dirty attacking Weiner's character. But whether independent PACs get into the fray in this post Citizens United era is another question. But Weiner's biggest problem may be that he's still a comedian's punch line.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.