By Edward Krudy
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The race for New York City comptroller is now a dead heat between Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former New York governor, as a series of high-profile endorsements have apparently helped Stringer close the gap.
The two candidates for the Democratic nomination are neck-and-neck at 46 points, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday. The previous poll on August 14 showed Spitzer with a 19-point lead over Stringer.
Spitzer's near-celebrity status and name recognition helped him surge in the polls after entering the race as a latecomer against the little-known Stringer.
But following two live television debates, endorsements from city newspapers and public figures, the latest results indicated New Yorkers were becoming more familiar and more comfortable with Stringer.
"If the polls now show that the race between Spitzer and Stringer is neck-and-neck, my instinct would be that it is highly likely Scott Stringer will win," said Harrison Goldin, who was comptroller for 16 years. He has endorsed Stringer.
The comptroller manages the city's $140 billion public pension fund, reviews the city's $70 billion budget, and has audit powers over a myriad of city agencies.
This will likely be the last Quinnipiac poll on the comptroller's race before the primary vote on September 10. The winner will face John Burnett, who is unopposed as the Republican candidate, on November 5.
John Liu, the incumbent comptroller is not running for a second term. He is running in the Democratic primary for mayor.
Faced with a cool response from the Democratic establishment, Spitzer, who resigned as governor after a prostitution scandal in 2008, has cast himself as an outsider who can change a broken system.
At the same time he has cast his opponent as a creature of the establishment, more interested in political ties than reforming the system.
Spitzer has also seen his strong lead among black voters weakened, according to the poll. They back Spitzer by 52 points to 40 points for Stringer, compared with 68 points versus 21 points in the middle of August.
(Editing by Tiziana Barghini and Jeffrey Benkoe)