2011-08-24 / Political Page

Weprin-Turner Slugfest Continues

As both Democratic and Republican state and national organizations get more involved in the Weprin vs. Turner race for Anthony Weiner’s old seat, a prominent Orthodox Jewish leader attacked Weprin’s support of gay marriages and threatened to throw his group’s powerful support to Turner in the extremely close contest.

Amid these escalating developments, the rival candidates engaged in a debate Monday night, exchanging slaps at each other’s campaign themes before an SRO crowd that did as much heckling during the 90 minute slap fest as they did cheering.

Now with less than three weeks to go until the September 13 special election for the Queens/Brooklyn 9th CD seat, the contest between Democrat David Weprin and Republican Bob Turner continues to tighten. The last major poll had Weprin ahead by only six percentage points, 48 to 42 percent, and the race is being watched closely as the outcome will have ramifications stretching into next year’s presidential and congressional elections.

But for the second time in this brief campaign, the powerful Jewish vote which Weprin, an Orthodox Jew, should be taking for granted, shows chances of it slipping away. Former Mayor Ed Koch started to weaken Weprin’s sure hold on that voting bloc when the lifetime Democratic pol bolted and endorsed Turner over the question of loyalty to Israel.

Now, suddenly, Assemblymember Dov Hikind, the powerful leader in the Brooklyn portion of the 9th CD, raised objections to Weprin’s support of gay marriage and said in a New York Post story yesterday that he might follow Koch into the Turner camp.

Hikind, who serves alongside Weprin in the Assembly, said he’s still mulling over the question and plans on discussing his objections directly with Weprin before making any possible endorsement changes in the race.

Meanwhile, there were reports that the Republican national campaign committee and its Democratic counterpart were actively supporting their respective candidates in the frenetic campaign.

The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) reportedly reacted to Turner’s surge in the Siena College poll by pouring fresh cash into the race in an attempt to tip the outcome toward Turner.

Next there were moves reported by both the national and state Democratic organizations against Turner’s plan to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security that would hit the nation’s seniors in the pocketbook.

In the state Democratic Committee mailings into the 9th CD, Turner, a former Queens cable TV executive, was referred to as a Tea Party extremist because his proposed cuts to seniors’ programs paralleled those being pursued by Tea Party congressmembers in Washington.

Turner was also accused in these ads of planning to “end Social Security as we know it”, a term frequently used by Democrats to describe Tea Party proposals to reduce Social Security costs and benefits.

Turner’s camp quickly responded with telephone robocalls from Koch who charged Weprin and the Democrats were using scare tactics with seniors.

Also responding to the closeness of the Siena poll, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reportedly pressed Weprin campaign officials to boost their fundraising efforts.

The DCCC was said to have sent staffers from Washington into Queens to advise their candidate.

At Monday evening’s debate, sponsored by the Queens Civic Congress at Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Weprin and Turner sparred over the same issues they’re attacking and counterattacking on the campaign trail every day.

Turner repeated his proposed cuts to senior programs, but along with the spending cuts he also espoused no new taxes as he emphasized “it’s absolutely necessary”.

The 70-year-old candidate, who was familiar to many in the audience because of his previous congressional race against Anthony Weiner last year, also raised the possibility of chopping the agriculture, education and environmental departments from the government as a way of cutting expenditures.

Weprin blasted back, continuing to demean Turner as nothing but a Tea Party radical who would reduce senior benefits while raising their out-of-pocket costs.

Weprin, the former three-term City Council finance committee chairman, promised to protect Medicare and Social Security and said he would also call for tax increases for the wealthy.

Going into the final 20 days of the campaign, Weprin still has a huge edge in registered Democrats in the district, with every assurance that the Queens Democratic organization will do its usual effective job of getting those voters to the polls.

The question is whether Turner can turn a large number of those Democrats into his voters, as he did in his race against Weiner last year, where he finished within 10 or 12 percentage points of Weiner, the then-incumbent.

WEPRIN ENDORSED: Weprin last week continued to pile up endorsements in his race for the 9th CD congressional seat. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer led the list, which also included the city’s firefighters and fire officers and the Italian-American PAC. The final one was a surprise political party crossover from Councilmember Peter Koo, a Republican/Conservative from Flushing.

Schumer, who held the 9th CD post for 18 years, from 1980 through 1998, said in his endorsement: “It is vital we preserve Medicare and Social Security” and Weprin was the candidate to do that,” someone we can count on to stand up for middle class Brooklyn and Queens families.” Weprin could be counted upon to “fight against the reckless, extreme right-wing Republican policies”, Schumer added.

In their endorsement of Weprin, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) and the United Firefighters Association (UFA) pledged to fight for Weprin’s election. They were joined by Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) and Councilmember Elizabeth Cowley (D–Glendale). Crowley and the firefighters placed their trust in Weprin to fight to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The Italian American Political Action Committee, led by its president, James Lisa, from Corona, said Weprin would be “a strong advocate for small businesses and seniors”.

Councilmember Peter Koo, a Republican/Conservative lawmaker and a leader of the Asian American community in Flushing, endorsed Weprin for his efforts “to empower our newly emerging immigrant communities”.

“David has a proven track record of delivering for the Asian American community in Queens,” stated Koo, owner of several pharmacies before winning a council seat.

Koo added he was “crossing party lines” to endorse Weprin because “he will be best for our community” and is “the better candidate”.

GIANARIS PRAISES NEW ETHICS LAW: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law last week the new Public Integrity Act of 2011, drawing heavy praise from state Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria), who was strongly in favor of the new ethics reform statute as it made its way toward passage in the senate during the regular senate session earlier this year.

The law increases transparency, Gianaris noted, establishes more stringent disclosure requirements, and creates a new independent ethics panel to oversee elected officials.

Gianaris pointed out, “Despite senate Democrats’ best efforts to pass a stronger set of ethics reforms this session, this new law is a good first step towards reforming Albany’s culture. We must continue to build on this success to enact more reforms, such as independent redistricting, that would increase accountability and improve government for the people of New York.”

The lawmaker said provisions of the Public Integrity Act of 2011 include:

•Increased financial disclosure from elected officials;

•Greater access to those appearing as a representative before any state government body;

•Forfeiture of pensions for public officials convicted of a felony;

•Additional financial disclosures for registered lobbyists;

•Creation of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, replacing the existing Commission on Public Integrity;

•New regulations issued by the state Board of Elections clarifying independent expenditures;

•Increased penalties for violations of filing requirements and contribution limits.

GIULIANI FOR V.P.? A former state Republican chairman and top aide to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is pushing leading GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry to tap Giuliani to be his running mate as vice president. The nudge to Perry was made by William Powers, who played a major role in Giuliani’s first mayoral election in 1993. Powers also served as New York state Republican Party chairman.

According to reports, Powers thinks Perry, governor of Texas, should pick Rudy as his running mate because Giuliani would be able to attract Republican votes for a

Perry/Giuliani slate in key states like

Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Rhode Island and even New York state. Giuliani always had the ambition of being the first Italian-American to be president of the United States, but being the first V.P. would still be quite an honor, Powers feels.

Meanwhile, Powers may be jumping the gun because Giuliani is still surveying the GOP presidential field and hasn’t ruled out running for the top job yet.

PATAKI EYEING PREZ SPOT: Another major New York figure, ex- Governor George Pataki, is also sizing up the bulky Republican presidential field with a view toward possibly dropping his hat into the ring, according to press reports. Pataki isn’t so impressed with what he sees out there presently so he may be making the big announcement that he may try his luck and go after the presidential prize too.

Pataki, 66, who left office in 2007, heads a non-profit group called No American Debt. He’s a moderate conservative who has run ads under the No American Debt banner in one or two states and told a Boston radio station recently he’s seriously thinking about running for president.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove, former President George Bush’s top strategist, said Sunday on a radio talk show that he’s not ruling Sarah Palin out as a Republican presidential candidate. Rove said Palin is planning to attend a huge Tea Party rally in Iowa later this week, which to him sounds like serious candidate stuff.

ACKERMAN BILL ADDRESSES HOUSING GLUT, JOBS, ECONOMY: Taking the Homestead Act of 1862 as an example, Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D–Bayside/L.I.) now plans to introduce Homestead Act 2 to reduce the housing glut of three million unsold, vacant and foreclosed properties currently impeding economic recovery “and put Americans back to work”.

Ackerman explains: “The bill would incentivize investments in real estate, encourage self-sustaining growth in the depressed housing market, and help clear the inventory of over three million of the unsold existing homes. The weak housing market has been a leading drag on the economic recovery.”

The act would offer “two million creditwary buyers” down-payment loans, 10-year tax exemptions on rental income for homes purchased as rental properties. The cost of the program “would result from leveraging the first $500 billion of the estimated $1.2 trillion in idle capital that U.S. companies have sitting off shore” and give them the incentive to bring the money home” by reducing the corporate tax rate on repatriated earnings to 10 percent. That revenue would cover the cost of the program, Ackerman said.

STAVISKY WELCOMES END TO SMOKING ON TRAIN PLATFORMS: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law last week a bill which bans smoking on all MTA train platforms to protect passengers from secondhand smoke. The action was welcomed by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) who stated:

“The health risks attributed to secondhand smoke are real and have been widely known to the public for decades. Exposing innocent bystanders, such as young children, to these health risks is an egregious oversight and I am very pleased to announce it will no longer be an issue for New Yorkers.”

Stavisky pointed out the ill-effects of secondhand smoke each year in the U.S. alone cause the following: 46,000 deaths from heart disease in non-smokers; 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults; 150,000-to- 300,000 lung infections in children under 18 months of age, and increases in the number and severity of asthma attacks in about 200,000 to 1,000,000 children.

Under the new law, there is no longer smoking allowed in outdoor areas of ticketing, boarding or platform areas on stations operated by the MTA.

EPA SCRAPPING WATER CAP, SCHUMER SAYS: The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Commissioner Lisa Jackson has informed U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.) that the agency is reevaluating its plan to require New York City to build a $1.6 billion concrete cap over a New York City reservoir in Yonkers.

Schumer, who has been leading the campaign for the EPA to scrap the plan because it is unnecessary and too costly, was pleased with the latest development.

The decision, said Schumer, is “a huge victory for New York City ratepayers and residents, and for common sense. I am pleased that the EPA has come around… and will consider other innovative and safe ways to keep our water clean.”

Schumer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have looked unfavorably on the EPA plan because, they say, an ultraviolet disinfection facility would do enough to protect the water.

URGE CONGRESS BUILD EMERGENCY RADIO NET: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano met in Staten Island last week to plead again for construction of a national radio network before the coming 10th anniversary of 9/11.

The emergency network is vital as a life saving facility because emergency units are unable to communicate with each other at crucial times, as happened during the 9/11 attacks, the officials have argued.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) supported the city’s case, saying, “Congress has yet to fulfill one of the key outstanding recommendations of the 9/11 Commission report”. She said the system would provide interoperability between local, state and federal first responders.

Presently the nation’s police, fire and rescue operations must use more than 55,000 separate radio networks. The project to create a single, nationwide system has been stymied by partisan infighting over whether private or government officials should control the national system.

Gillibrand vowed to be back on Capitol Hill next month (after Congress’ vacation) to press the fight and the votes will be there to pass it, she said.

ELECTED,

COMMUNITY

LEADERS BACK JOBS BILL: Gillibrand was in Jackson Heights last week where local elected officials gave full support to her Urban Jobs Act of 2011, which would provide funds to non-profit groups throughout the country to create jobs programs for 18 to 24 year olds.

On hand were state Senator Jose Peralta (D–Jackson Heights), Assemblymember Francisco Moya (D–Corona) and Councilmember Julissa Ferreras (D–East Elmhurst). All offered Gillibrand their full support for the bill which seeks $20 million initially to reach its goals. By 2016 it would seek to secure $60 million.

Gillibrand said, “Job training programs for our Queens youths is an investment that will help our local economy and have a lasting positive impact in our community.”

The lawmaker said she hopes to push the bill through this fall.

Meanwhile President Barack Obama is readying a broader job plan funded with tax cuts and aimed at construction jobs. It’s expected Republicans will oppose the job aid, but the president reportedly will give it a strong push and, should the GOP and Tea Party lawmakers block it, he will use it against them in next year’s elections.

HALLORAN SALUTES STRAWBERRY: Councilmember Dan Halloran (R–CWhitestone) offered first anniversary congratulations to former Met and Yankee outfielder Darryl Strawberry and his Strawberry’s Sports Grill in Douglaston.

Halloran said, “In just 12 months, Strawberry’s has distinguished itself as a fine place to dine, watch sports and have a good time with friends and family, at a price middle class New Yorkers can afford. As a Yankee fan, my only request is that you add a 1998 burger to the menu. They won 125 games and Darryl was their designated hitter after all.”

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