ALBANY -- Four-and-a-half years after his name became forever tied to the high-profile prostitution scandal that claimed his once-promising political career, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Sunday returned to the state's capital city for the first time.
Elected in 2006 by the widest margin in state history for a governor, Spitzer has eschewed the capital since his stunning resignation less than two years later, which came after a federal investigation pegged him as a customer of an upscale prostitution ring. He returned Sunday to headline a fundraiser for WAMC Northeast Public Radio, an Albany-based NPR affiliate that counts the one-time governor among its donors.
"There is a vitality to Albany that is very real," Spitzer, a Democrat, told reporters. "It obviously evokes a number of memories for me, but it's great to be here."
Now a cable television talk-show host, Spitzer took questions for more than an hour from WAMC CEO Alan Chartock, who relayed written inquiries from audience members who paid $100 for a pair of tickets.
Spitzer was greeted with warm applause when he was introduced to the crowd of more than 100. He referred obliquely to the scandal that led to his political demise, telling Chartock that he doesn't know what he would tell someone trying to overcome a difficult situation in their personal life.
"You try to learn from it," Spitzer said. "You try to go forward and figure out what matters, and I guess I would just leave it at that. It isn't easy, and I'm not going to pretend it is easy."
He appeared most comfortable while speaking about national issues like the 2012 presidential race -- eliciting more cheers after predicting a close victory for President Barack Obama and expressing a distaste for the Electoral College system. He actively shied away from assessing current Gov. Andrew Cuomo's performance.
"I don't think it's my place to grade people," Spitzer said. "There's many folks who will and want to and should. I have disagreed with the governor in certain policy arenas -- that has been clear over time -- but I always try to do it respectfully."
When asked if he believes Cuomo should run for the White House in 2016, Spitzer was equally diplomatic. Cuomo is frequently mentioned as a potential contender for the Democratic nomination -- as Spitzer once was after building a reputation as the "Sheriff of Wall Street" during two terms as state attorney general.
"Let me deflect it only by saying this: I think Hillary (Clinton) should run," Spitzer said. "If she does, I honestly can't imagine that there would be any (Democratic) primary."
He also deflected questions about whether he has any aspirations to return to public office, joking that he has been "elected dog walker of my own house."
Audience members, however, held no such reservations. When Chartock read a statement from one of them urging Spitzer to run for president, the room lit up with more applause.
Despite the length of time between stops at the capital, Spitzer's stay in Albany was brief. He told reporters he would head back to a home he owns in Columbia County following the moderated discussion Sunday.
The WAMC event was recorded by the station -- whose coverage area spans much of the Hudson Valley -- and will be aired at a later date, according to station officials.