Anthony Weiner is brushing off calls from national Democrats for him to quit the New York City mayoral race, saying at a campaign stop Monday that the decision was up to voters.
Weiner, speaking at a senior center in Flushing, tried to steer the conversation away from the topic of lewd messages he exchanged with women -- many before he resigned from Congress, and as he admitted last week, several after that point.
"I have said continually that I'm going to leave this decision to the people of the city of New York to decide, period, end of conversation," he said. "It's their decision, It's not yours, it's not mine, it's not some Sunday talk show pundit."
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He faced the same challenge at a Bronx mayoral forum later Monday, where the candidates were supposed to talk about housing. But three of the leading Democratic candidates did not attend, and interest in Weiner's online affairs overshadowed the event.
Shellie Sampson Jr., the pastor who organized the forum, lamented a missed opportunity for the community.
"Regardless of how they may feel about him personally, they were robbed of a more in-depth discussion and dialogue and discourse on what affects them on a day-to-day basis," he said.
The Democratic primary is Sept. 10.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the head of the state's Democratic party, declined Monday to weigh in on whether Weiner should abandon his mayoral bid, but his scandal-scarred predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, allowed that he would fire an employee who engaged in Weiner's behavior.
The former governor, himself staging a comeback bid in the race for New York City comptroller, told MSNBC's Chris Matthews in a televised appearance that Matthews was correct in suggesting Spitzer would not vote for Weiner.
Spitzer stepped down from office in 2008 after admitting he paid for sex with prostitutes.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama's former senior adviser David Axelrod, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," had harsh words for Weiner.
"He is not going to be the next mayor of New York; he is wasting time and space," Axelrod said. "It's time for him to go away and let New York have its mayor's race."
Also Sunday, a former aide to President Bill Clinton said that Weiner's ongoing scandal has been "very painful" for the Clintons, who are close to Weiner's wife.
Ex-press secretary Dee Dee Myers said on CBS' "Face the Nation" it wasn't a story anybody, particularly the Clintons, were happy to see dominate the news.
Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, was adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Myers later said she hadn't spoken to the Clintons. She said she meant to say that like many others, the Clintons "would like to see the whole story go away."
A poll of likely Democratic voters released Monday showed Weiner in a statistical tie for second place, with 16 percent compared with 27 percent for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, 21 percent for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and 20 percent for former comptroller Bill Thompson. The Quinnipiac poll questioned 446 likely voters and had a 5 percentage point margin of error.
Several of Weiner's rival candidates have questioned his trustworthiness and called for him to leave the race.
His campaign manager has also quit.
The director of the senior center where Weiner campaigned Monday defended the candidate, saying many members support him.
"We are looking at a a can-do candidate, we are not looking for a priest," said Ethel Chan.
--Andrew Siff contributed to this story