(CNN) – Calls for Anthony Weiner to withdraw from the New York City mayoral contest poured in Wednesday after his admission that he sent lusty messages more than a year after resigning from Congress for the same dubious habits.
As Weiner resisted those calls to drop out, CNN was able to identify the 23-year-old recipient of those sexually charged messages.
The woman who participated in the lewd chats with Weiner was identified by an acquaintance as Sydney Elaine Leathers of Evansville, Indiana.
The acquaintance, Lou Colagiovanni, told CNN he met Leathers on a political Facebook page he moderated in 2010. After Leathers confided in Colagiovanni about the Weiner sexting messages, he says the two discussed making money off the revelation of Weiner’s improprieties. When Leathers took the messages elsewhere, Colagiovanni said he decided to go public.
Leathers’ extensive digital footprint includes a Facebook fan page, a Facebook blog and accounts with Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. She also goes by the online screen names of Sydney Elaine XO and Sydney Elaine.
Many of Leathers’ posts and one of her Facebook pages are political. One of her posts from 2011 was about Weiner, saying “he can continue sending d*** pics every single day for the rest of his life as long as he continues to legislate like he does.”
CNN tried to contact Leathers Wednesday but was unsuccessful.
Gossip website TheDirty.com on Tuesday published a collection of sexting messages and blurred photos between Weiner and a woman the site did not identify. The sexting messages and photos published match unblurred photos and messages provided to CNN by Colagiovanni.
The messages were published almost a year after they were exchanged, just weeks before a Democratic mayoral primary in New York City in which Weiner is a candidate.
On Tuesday, Weiner admitted to engaging in the lewd chats a year after his resignation from Congress in 2011. In an extraordinary news conference, Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, pleaded for voters to forgive the embattled candidate.
Weiner also reminded the public that he warned at the beginning of his campaign in May that more photos and texts could emerge.
His news conference remarks came hours after screenshots of the sexually explicit conversations and photographs appeared on TheDirty.com.
Despite Weiner’s apology, calls poured in for him to step out of the contest.
The editorial board of the New York Times urged Weiner to take his personal struggles “out of the race for mayor of New York City.” The New York Post belittled him as “Carlos the Jerkel,” a reference to Weiner’s use of the online alias “Carlos Danger.” And pundits wondered how someone who had shown such poor judgment was even in the race to begin with.
As Weiner predicted at his Tuesday news conference, some of his competitors for the mayoral nomination also urged him to drop out.
“Enough is enough. I’m calling on Anthony to withdraw from this race – for the good of the city that I know he loves as much as all of us,” tweeted Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. He also started an online petition urging others to call on Weiner to end his campaign.
Two other candidates, John Catsimatidis and Sal Albanese, tweeted similar pushes for Weiner to step aside.
Weiner’s closest rival, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, wrote in a statement that Weiner’s candidacy had turned the mayoral race into a “circus.”
“Being the Mayor of New York is serious business and it demands a serious leader. Instead we have seen a pattern of reckless behavior, consistently poor judgment, and difficulty with the truth,” she wrote.
Weiner argued Wednesday that he had been telling voters all along “to take a look at the full record of the things I’ve done, the things I’ve proposed.”
“I think I’ve been getting a pretty good response because citizens are interested in my ideas for the city and the middle class are struggling to make it,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
In a lengthy e-mail to supporters earlier Wednesday, he declared: “New Yorkers don’t quit, and I’ll never quit on you.”
Weiner resigned his House seat in 2011 after first lying about, then admitting to sending lewd photographs and images to multiple women. In the e-mail to supporters, he said he “answered every question about these mistakes” before and after announcing his run for mayor but expressed regret that he did not specify “when these exchanges happened.”
Unlike his public resignation two years ago, Abedin spoke up for her husband Tuesday at the news conference, saying she has moved past her husband’s addiction and urged others to do the same.
“What I want to say is, I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as I have said from the beginning, we are moving forward,” said Abedin, a longtime senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, adding that Weiner had made some “horrible mistakes, both before he resigned from Congress, and after.”
Their marriage may have moved past the scandal now, but a friend of Abedin’s tells CNN that upon Weiner’s confession Abedin was furious, and seriously considered ending the marriage.
Upon reflection, the friend says, she felt that taking their son from his father was not what was best for him, and ultimately decided to continue with therapy in an effort to heal their relationship.
In his e-mail to supporters Wednesday, Weiner said the exchange was “a terrible mistake that I unfortunately returned to during a rough time in our marriage.”
The verdict is still out on whether Weiner will survive the latest firestorm. Polls taken over the past several weeks have shown Weiner either slightly ahead of his closest rival for the Democratic mayoral nomination, Quinn, or trailing her in second place.
“He’s been campaigning asking for a second chance. Now today he’s asking for a third chance,” CNN contributor John Avlon said Wednesday morning. “That’s fundamentally different in what the voters are being asked.”
Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and CNN commentator, said Weiner’s latest admission will put him even further under water with women voters.
“I don’t claim to be a thermometer for the women vote, but I can tell you it’d be hard for me to vote for a guy who’s now made his wife endure this kind of public humiliation,” she said.
CNNMoney’s Erica Fink and Laurie Segall and CNN’s Ashley Killough, Kevin Liptak and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
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