(NEW YORK) -- Eliot Spitzer's decision to jump back into politics just five years after he was involved in a prostitution scandal may have been surprising to many, but in his first day of the campaign for New York City comptroller, Spitzer made it clear he is in it to win it.
He told ABC News station WABC-TV in New York that he "would not be running if I believed I could not win."
Political observers seem to agree he can win, and the move is widely seen as the first step in a campaign for a higher prize: New York City mayor.
"Five years might be enough time in purgatory," longtime New York City Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf told ABC News. "Nobody runs for comptroller to be comptroller, you run for comptroller to be mayor."
Spitzer broke the news in an interview with The New York Times Sunday evening and on Monday, he told CBS' This Morning that he made the decision as recently as this weekend. He said he wants to "re-envision, re-imagine" the position of comptroller.
As for how New Yorkers -- who remember him standing next to his wife Silda at a news conference in 2008, admitting that while he was governor he was a client of a high-end prostitution ring -- will react to his candidacy, he said he believes there is "forgiveness in the public."
Spitzer's first test will be getting on the ballot. When he announced his intentions on Sunday, he only had four days to collect more than 3,700 signatures from registered New York City voters.
At his first event as a candidate on Monday, he was swarmed by the press while he was trying to get signatures in Union Square. He spent most of the one hour doing interviews than actually getting signatures. He got only 12 himself before jumping into a cab.
Sheinkopf worked for Spitzer when he won the attorney general's race in 1998, but not since then. He says Spitzer "can absolutely win." Sheinkopf is now advising former New York City comptroller Bill Thompson in his bid for mayor.
"Why can he win? The race is an argument about what he can do for the taxpayers of the city, what he did for the state as attorney general," Sheinkopf said.
Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer, the most high-profile candidate seeking the New York City comptroller's job, which serves as the city's chief auditor and chief fiscal officer, had been seen as a shoo-in for the job -- until Sunday.
After Spitzer's announcement, Stringer came out swinging on Twitter, with his campaign manager writing, "Scott has a proven record of results & integrity + entered race to help NY's middle class regain footing" and "By contrast, Spitzer will spurn campaign finance program to buy personal redemption with his family fortune. The voters will decide."
Stringer, who already has the support of several of the city's Democratic mayoral candidates -- including Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio and Thompson -- was more reserved in an afternoon press conference.
Spitzer is expected to use his personal fortune from his family's real estate company to run, as opposed to taking public funding.
Sheinkopf says Spitzer can beat Stringer because he can "attack him" and "outspend" him thanks to his funds.
Sheinkopf describes the job as "perfect for Spitzer" because he will have "some enforcement authority, not much, but (comptroller) acts as an oversight performance of audits of city agencies" as well as allowing him to be involved in "public policy prescriptions." The job also oversees the New York City public employee pensions fund.
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