Eliot Spitzer emerged from political exile on Monday, taking his first halting steps back to public life with a campaign swing through Union Square.

But it was more a media circus than a whistle-stop tour for New York City residents, with dozens of reporters, television cameras, and photographers surrounding the former governor as he climbed the subway-station stairs, keeping him from finding the voters for whom he was there to ask for forgiveness.

“For many years I worked for the public as a prosecutor, as attorney general, and also as governor, and I think that the public will look at what we did with respect to cleaning up Wall Street, with respect to cleaning up the environment,” Spitzer said. But his record was nearly drowned out by a bellowing heckler who asked: “WHY WERE YOU LATE? WERE YOU WITH A HOOKER? DID YOU LEAVE YOUR BLACK SOCKS ON? THIS IS JUST ABOUT POWER. YOU WANT POWER.”

As that heckler was countered by another pro-Spitzer shouter, the governor who saw his once promising career flame out in a prostitution scandal, only to reappear in the outer reaches of unwatched cable news, struggled to explain why at the last moment he decided to run for city comptroller. It’s an unglamorous position in the governmental firmament that as of Sunday night had just one major candidate in contention, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

“If you look at the record I had as attorney general and as governor and as an assistant district attorney, in the private sector, as a teacher of government, how the students reviewed my teaching at [City College of New York], the things I care about, then I think people understand that this is a record of service,” Spitzer said. “I hope they do. I am going to make that argument to them, and I will be honored to have their support.”

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