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Stringer ends Spitzer's comeback campaign by winning Democratic primary for NYC comptroller

Aug. 9, 2013: Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, left, and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, both Democrats, participate in the first primary debate for New York City comptroller in the WABC-TV studios in New York.AP

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has won the Democratic primary for New York City comptroller. His win ends disgraced ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer's surprise bid to reclaim his political career.

Stringer has a 52-percent-to-48-percent lead over Spitzer in incomplete and unofficial returns Tuesday night, with 92 percent of precincts reporting.

Stringer has spent 20 years as borough president and a state assemblyman. He was heavily favored in the comptroller race before Spitzer jumped into it in July.

Stringer portrayed himself as a knowledgeable public servant. He emphasized the prostitution scandal that spurred Spitzer's 2008 resignation.

It happened after Spitzer was identified as a client of an escort service under federal investigation. He was never charged but later acknowledged he'd paid for sex.

Spitzer, who was never charged with any crime, asked voters to focus on his record as a hard-charging governor and state attorney general. He was dubbed "the sheriff of Wall Street" for his financial investigations.

That resonated with Paulette Esrig, 81, a retired schoolteacher who voted for him Tuesday at a precinct in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

"I picked him not because I approve of his personal life at all, but I felt he was well qualified," she said.

But other voters said Spitzer's past scandal drove them to pull levers for Stringer, even if they didn't know much about him despite his 20 years as borough president and a former state assemblyman.

"He's not my favorite, but I think Spitzer is an abomination," said Jullian Stark, 55, a college biology professor, who also voted in Chelsea.

Stringer says he's mastered both fighting for causes and forging compromises during 20 years in public office.

And he has urged New Yorkers not to forgive or forget his opponent's personal misdeeds.

"I didn't resign in disgrace," Stringer said at a candidate forum last week. Earlier, his campaign sent voters a mailer highlighting Spitzer's involvement with prostitutes and featuring a photo of prison bars.

"If this public wants someone who makes a difference, they know who they're going to vote for," Spitzer responded at the forum, organized by the Council of Urban Professionals, a networking group. Spitzer's aides have sent reporters emails mocking Stringer for proclaiming a Justin Bieber appreciation day last year.

Spitzer had double-digit leads in some polls as recently as two weeks ago. But polls Sunday and Monday variously showed the candidates about even or Stringer slightly ahead.

The winner will face a Republican and other opponents Nov. 5.

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