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Why black voters are backing Anthony Weiner in N.Y. mayor race (+video)

Disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner is suddenly leading in New York's mayoral race, thanks largely to support from the city's black voters. One reason: He's speaking to their concerns.

By Staff writer / July 16, 2013

New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner (D) smiles after sharing a megaphone as he greeted parade goers during the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York last month.

Craig Ruttle/AP/File

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New York

During a summer season of politics charged with issues of race, it has been black voters in New York who have helped propel the political redemption of former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

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The once Twitter-happy candidate, who resigned his House seat in 2011 after sexting disclosures, has surged to the top of the polls in the race for mayor, and he leads the current crowd with 25 percent of Democratic primary voters, according to this week’s Quinnipiac University poll. Former front-runner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, is second with 23 percent, and last election's runner-up, former Comptroller William Thompson, is a distant third with 11 percent.

Congressman Weiner's lead is greatest among black voters – 31 percent say they prefer him, more than Speaker Quinn and Comptroller Thompson combined. And since Weiner is slightly trailing Quinn among white and Hispanic voters, according to the poll, it appears his strong support among blacks – who also have the lowest number of undecideds – is giving him his current lead.

This comes as a surprise to many, especially since Thompson, who is black, came close to unseating Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the last election, carrying more than 3 of 4 black voters in 2009.

So why do so many now seem to be gravitating toward a man who had to resign his congressional seat after sending lewd pictures of himself to a host of young women and then lying about it?

Of course, the campaigns are quick to point out that it is early in the electoral season. And getting relevant samples of racial and ethnic minorities is notoriously difficult in these kinds of polls. But significant factors are contributing to the strong black support for Weiner, especially the simple fact that he is addressing the issues important to them in ways the other candidates are not.

"Willie Thompson has been almost subterranean in terms of outreach into the African-American community, in terms of speaking out on the issues of concern to them," says Randolph McLaughlin, a professor at Pace Law School in New York and an attorney specializing in voting rights. "And one of the main issues, certainly, of concern to African-American voters is the question of stop-and-frisk" – a policy that allows cops to frisk people for weapons if they feel the person presents a threat is about to commit a serious crime.

Thompson "has been silent, if not apologetic, for the policies of the Bloomberg administration on that score," says Professor McLaughlin.

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