ALBANY, N.Y. – Sen. John Kerry's (search) bid for the Democratic presidential nomination won the backing Monday of New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (search), who has gained national attention for his battles against Wall Street.
"With his long record of standing up for all Americans against special interests, John Kerry is the best candidate for president," Democrat Spitzer said.
Spitzer, in an interview with The Associated Press, said most important to him was finding a candidate who could beat President Bush and "who has the values and the stature and the passion and the integrity that will serve him as a great president. John Kerry has those characteristics."
Spitzer joined the Massachusetts senator at a Monday morning rally in Albuquerque, N.M., to make the formal endorsement.
Spitzer's backing came as Kerry sought to counter charges from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) and Sen. John Edwards (search) of North Carolina that the Massachusetts senator is beholden to special interest lobbyists for campaign money.
The Dean camp kept up the attack on Monday.
"John Kerry has taken more special interest money than any other senator in the past 15 years," said Dean spokesman Eric Schmeltzer when asked about the Spitzer endorsement. "Democrats concerned with putting up the strongest candidate against President Bush have to worry about Senator Kerry's addiction to special interest cash."
"This is a man with absolute integrity," countered Spitzer in a conference call with reporters following the University of New Mexico event.
Spitzer's probes of Wall Street investment houses and mutual fund managers has made him a national figure and given him credibility on ethics issues, a fact Kerry was quick to embrace.
Spitzer aides said the endorsement deal was completed Sunday and that the Kerry camp wanted the attorney general on the campaign trail with the senator as quickly as possible. A hastily arranged flight for Spitzer got the two together for the Monday morning event.
"This is the best moment to help John Kerry, to make sure he goes on to victory," Spitzer said.
The endorsement came one day before delegate election contests in New Mexico and six other states.
Spitzer, a likely candidate for governor of New York in 2006, said the senator "has a real plan to end the era of special interests and I am convinced he is the man to take back the White House from President Bush."
Spitzer cited a three-point Kerry plan for cracking down on financial shenanigans.
Among other things, the Kerry plan calls for ending market timing trades and late trading in which some favored customers of funds can make trades not available to the general public. The Kerry plan also calls for an independent oversight board to monitor mutual funds, increased penalties for defrauding investors and fair fees for all investors.
Should the battle continue long enough, the March 2 Super Tuesday primaries that include contests in New York and California are expected to be a showdown for Kerry, Dean and the remaining candidates.
New York's other statewide elected Democrat, state Comptroller Alan Hevesi has endorsed Sen. Joseph Lieberman's (search) candidacy as has Sheldon Silver, the powerful Democratic speaker of the state Assembly.
Spitzer said that while he would do what he could for the Kerry campaign, "Obviously, I've got a day job."