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George Spitz has always had trouble getting serious press. “I can’t put a gun to the media’s head and say, ‘Cover me,'” says the 78-year old mayoral candidate and progressive gadfly whose unexpected appearance at last week’s televised debate was described by city pundits both as a righteous breath of fresh air and just plain crazy.

He does have the unconditional praise of at least one prominent admirer, though. Last month, former Green Party presidential hopeful Ralph Nader praised Spitz at a rally of 7,500 in Oregon. The retired state tax auditor, said Nader, has a history of relentless, exhaustive and quixotic bids to implement progressive programs like free school tuition.

That’s more than Nader’s been saying for one of Spitz’s better-known opponents, Public Advocate Mark Green. The former Raider of ten years, said Nader, has been too cautious not to raise any serious issues during his campaign and is gingerly playing front-runner. Spitz is “basically arguing issues that Mark has long identified with, by writing, advocating and so forth,” Nader said in a recent interview. “We can only hope that he will highlight these issues [in the debates] and Mark will return to his policy roots.”

Nader also admires Spitz for achieving some things he couldn’t as an underdog candidate. While doing most of his campaigning in jogging attire by the water fountain near the Central Park reservoir, Spitz was able to get himself on the ballot and into both of the televised debates.

Says Nader, “That’s more than I was on.”

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