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Ex-Congressman Weiner gaining ground in New York mayoral race

Former U.S. Congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner arrives at a campaign event in New York, May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Br
Former U.S. Congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner arrives at a campaign event in New York, May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Br

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Disgraced former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner is gaining ground on his Democratic rivals in the race for New York City Mayor, according to a new poll.

Weiner, who resigned from office two years ago in a sexting scandal, had the support of 19 percent of Democrats in a Marist poll released on Tuesday. That puts him six points behind early frontrunner City Council speaker Christine Quinn, who had support of 25 percent of Democrats.

A separate poll released on May 22, the day that Weiner formally declared his candidacy, had shown Quinn, who would be the city's first female and lesbian mayor, with a wider 10 point lead.

Another 22 percent of voters told Marist pollsters said they were yet undecided, while 12 percent backed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and 11 percent were with former city comptroller Bill Thompson, who ran unsuccessfully against Bloomberg four years ago. John Liu, the city's current comptroller, follows with 8 percent.

Weiner, once a popular six-term Congressman representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens, resigned from Congress after admitting he had sent a lewd picture over Twitter and then lied about it repeatedly. He launched his campaign last Wednesday, saying he hoped voters would give him a second chance and pledging to be an advocate for the working class.

More than half of registered voters said Weiner deserves a second chance, while nearly 40 percent said Weiner does not have the character to be mayor, the poll found.

The candidates are due to face off in a Democratic primary in September. If no candidate wins more than 40 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will compete in a run-off election. The winning candidate will face the Republican candidate in November.

"He's a major factor in this race, he's made a run-off all but inevitable and he can't be overlooked," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

All of the Republican contenders, including businessman John Catsimatidis and Joe Lhota, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, are regarded as long-shots.

Miringoff said that voters appear to be open to a Weiner candidacy, though Weiner is still hampered by heavy disapproval ratings. He noted that Quinn is viewed favorably by 60 percent of registered Democrats.

"She remains the most popular of all of the candidates," Miringoff said.

The poll was released hours before Weiner is due to participate in his first mayoral debate. Quinn, who has attended dozens of such forums in recent months, has said she will not attend.

The telephone survey of 1,001 New York City adults was conducted May 22 through May 24. There poll included 810 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, and 492 Democrats, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Scott Malone and Nick Zieminski)

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