WASHINGTON — Many people from California have entered politics, but few with the erotic resume of former madam Kristin Davis.
She used to provide prostitutes for high-powered clients including, she says, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Now she's making a run for Spitzer's old job.
"The overall goal isn't so much to win the governorship," Davis said in an interview Friday. "What we're really trying to do is establish a new party."
Davis is collecting signatures to secure an Anti-Prohibition Party slot on New York's November ballot. Her platform includes legalizing prostitution, legalizing and taxing marijuana and expanding casino gambling.
As a candidate, her vulnerabilities are an open book.
She's on probation, for one thing. After pleading guilty to promoting prostitution in the third degree and spending four months in New York City's fearsome Rikers Island jail in 2008, Davis must complete five years of probation.
The 35-year-old graduate of Saint Mary's College of California has raised campaign money by auctioning off dates with former Penthouse models. She's campaigned at swingers' parties. She maintains a personal website called Manhattan Madam, which also is the title of the 170-page book she wrote about her immodest misadventures.
"Find out the dirty secrets of Kristin's celebrity, politician and Wall Street clients," the website urges. "You'll be shocked and amazed by who used her services, and what they requested!"
Financially, she's outgunned.
Davis ended July with about $1,700 in her campaign treasury, campaign records show. Republican Rick Lazio had $688,000. Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo, the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo and New York state's attorney general, reported that he had $23 million.
"Andrew Cuomo has already got it," Davis conceded, when asked about her chances in November, "but let's show that there are certain issues that people care about."
Growing up in Fresno, Calif., the only child of a single mother who worked for an insurance company, Davis wasn't particularly political. Nor, she said, was she a bad girl. She worked on the school yearbook, and she said she was "the kind of girl that wasn't part of any particular clique but that everyone liked."
She said she attended Hoover High School for one year and then Ashlan Park Christian School. Fresno City College officials have confirmed that she attended in 1995, and Saint Mary's College officials confirmed that she graduated in 2003 with a management degree.
Davis said she first entered the business of pleasure by investing $10,000 in a friend's San Francisco massage parlor.
"It was a 'happy ending' massage parlor," Davis explained.
After work in what she termed the hedge fund business, Davis started a New York City escort service under various names, including Wicked Models. Her escorts charged about $1,000 an hour, generally split 50-50 with Davis.
All of which may make her current endeavors sound like a publicity stunt, akin to porn star Mary Carey's 2003 gubernatorial run in California. Davis, though, may need to be taken more seriously than that. She speaks lucidly and directly about her past and her politics.
"Taking her at face value and listening to her as a candidate, Davis herself seems serious, well-spoken, and delivers a clear message," said Grant Davis Reeher, a professor of political science at Syracuse University. "It's a very specific platform, with obviously narrow appeal."
Beyond the ballot, moreover, Davis and her political strategist Roger Stone may accomplish other things through her candidacy.
Stone is a well-traveled Republican character, whose associations go back to his time with Richard Nixon. On his own website, Stone approvingly quotes writers who've variously described him as a "professional lord of mischief" who has "a long history of bare-knuckle politics."
In 2007, Stone was forced to step down as consultant to New York Republicans after allegations that he made threatening phone calls to Eliot Spitzer's father.
Davis' most recent campaign statement shows that Stone has provided in-kind services valued at $16,000 so far this year. This includes banners, video and internet services.
So it may not be a coincidence that the Davis campaign helps keep alive memories of how Spitzer resigned as governor in 2008 after revelations that he was a client of a call girl ring. Spitzer has since tried for a bit of a public comeback, most recently being named a co-host of a CNN show with conservative columnist Kathleen Parker.
"Davis feels abused by Eliot Spitzer," noted Robert J. Spitzer (no relation), the chair of the political science department at the State University of New York at Cortland. "Her call girl business was busted after Eliot was caught, and she went to jail. Eliot didn't. As for Roger Stone, he's been trying to 'get' Eliot for years."
Davis acknowledged that "none of us want to see (Spitzer) come back," but she said she was campaigning because "we care about these issues."
"It's a lot of work," she added, "but I'm not adverse to hard work."
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