Who says politics isn't a circus?
Kristin Davis, the one-time Manhattan madam who says she supplied call girls to Eliot Spitzer when he was New York's governor, shares a stage tonight with state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and all the other candidates in the only debate of New York's gubernatorial race.
Davis is running for governor as the candidate of the Anti-Prohibition Party.
She was guaranteed a place tonight when Republican Carl Paladino demanded that Cuomo debate all the third-party hopefuls, and Cuomo agreed.
"It won't be hard to stand out in a crowd of middle-aged white men so bring it on," Davis wrote on her website when her participation was assured. "The good news is that I have 11 days to figure out what to wear."
Getting noticed should not be a problem for Davis, who says she is 35, sports tattoos on both arms and is routinely described by New York's tabloids as everything from an "escort empress" to a "busty bottle blonde."
Davis touts herself as an "accomplished businesswoman," putting her in line with a slew of women executives who have plunged into politics this year.
There's former eBay chief Meg Whitman, running for governor of California; Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO seeking a Senate seat in California; and Linda McMahon, who helped to build the WWE pro-wrestling empire and is running for U.S. Senate in Connecticut.
But the business Davis created was called Wicked Models, and her claim to fame is that it grew to become, she says, the biggest escort agency in the world.
"At its height we had about 140 girls, locations in five different cities and a call center with 10 employees that we ran 24-7 out of Montevideo, Uruguay," she says. "It was very lucrative."
A Governor's Fall
Davis says one of her customers was Spitzer.
Revelations that he was patronizing prostitutes forced him to resign as governor and forced Davis out of business, too.
"I knew that he was a client and so I immediately closed down and gave all my information to my attorney and asked him to turn me in, because I knew that I would be going to jail," she explains.
Davis spent about four months behind bars, pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prostitution and forfeited $500,000 in profits.
Davis' candidacy is the source of much speculation in New York, mainly because it's being guided by Roger Stone, a veteran Republican operative who's become something of a merry prankster – or trickster – in state politics, depending on the point of view. Stone also has been informally advising the Paladino campaign.
Under Stone's tutelage, Davis created Anti-Prohibition Party and obtained more than the 15,000 signatures needed to put the party and her candidacy on the ballot.
Is her presence an attempt to siphon the support of women voters from Cuomo? Is an attempt to get under Cuomo's skin, or to embarrass Spitzer?
Davis says no, she simply wants to put her notoriety to good use -- advancing an agenda of legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage, cutting taxes, decriminalizing prostitution and allowing the spread of casino gambling.
She says she also is out to expose the "hypocrisy" of a legal system that forced her to do time while "corrupt politicians" roam free
Debate Could Bring Surprises
Davis' appearance in the debate could surprise New Yorkers.
In an interview with ABC News, Davis was able to argue her positions clearly and forcefully.
"In all honesty, I haven't done a lot of preparation (for the debate). I don't want to sound particularly cocky, but these are issues I have been talking about for 16 months," she said.
"My background is finance. I got into the escort industry because it was the economically viable thing to do … I didn't come from a 'working girl' background."
Before entering the sex business Davis spent 10 years in the securities industry. She began as a trading assistant and eventually oversaw the back-office and government-compliance operations of a hedge fund, according to her website.
In a year in which people are angry and disenchanted with politics, Davis is hoping to receive a sizable protest vote.
If she receives 50,000 votes, her Anti-Prohibition Party will be guaranteed a spot on New York's ballot in the next gubernatorial election, extending her 15 minutes of fame for at least four more years.
"I'm pretty confident we'll get it," she said.