Turner Defeats Weprin
In an astounding political upset, underdog Republican Bob Turner rode the crest of a furious late campaign surge into yesterday’s special election to hand a humiliating defeat to David Weprin as he won the seat previously held by Anthony Weiner.
The 70-year-old Rockaway Park homeowner, who had based his campaign on Weprin’s support for President Barack Obama’s fiscal policies, also dealt the president and the Democratic Party an embarrassing defeat with his exciting come from behind victory, which was forecast by the latest poll survey released last Saturday. Turner, who had previously trailed Weprin by eight percentage points in a preceding poll, sprinted ahead of his opponent by six points in the new poll.
The Siena College survey lit a fire under the reeling Weprin and his Queens/Brooklyn Democratic sponsors in the twin boroughs, as well as national party officials in Washington who poured cash into a $600,000 pot that the party used for a massive get-out-the-vote effort yesterday, which ultimately failed to achieve its objective.
Turner, the ex-TV executive, who also used yesterday’s surprise victory to avenge his narrow loss to Weiner last year, gave the Republican Party its first victory in the 9th CD in about three-quarters of a century.
His winning effort, according to incomplete and unofficial returns, will resonate among Republican and Tea Party advocates who will see it as a rebuff to Obama’s policies and cause damage to his re-election campaign for president next year.
The smack in the face to Obama, which became an early campaign issue through the efforts of former mayor Ed Koch who lambasted the president for his anti-Israel position on the Palestinian question, grew into a major problem by the campaign’s end because Brooklyn Assemblymember Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jewish leader, jumped in and also endorsed Turner because of Weprin’s yes vote on same-sex marriage.
The Koch-Hikind desertion of the Democrats and flaunting of the pro-Israel issues was reflected in the favorable Turner poll which brought him up even to Weprin, also an Orthodox Jew, among Jewish voters.
Turner, who described himself as the citizen candidate appealed to the voters and blunted Weprin’s ace-in-the-hole last minute strategy, which included radio and TV commercials by Governor Andrew Cuomo exhorting Democrats to go to the polls to vote for Weprin.
Weprin reportedly sunk close to $300,000 into this effort to exploit the 3-to-1 Democratic majority in the district. Helping Weprin to deliver the hoped-for final push to victory were the Working Family Party and United Federation of Teachers labor union, among others.
To many observers, Turner’s apparent agreement to follow Tea Party policies to cut government spending—and to extend them even to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—would surely be his downfall in the election. But his apparent popularity and Weprin’s lackluster performance allowed him to advocate those reductions in these very popular programs and still win.
The Weprin-Turner brawl mirrored the debate in Washington between Obama and the GOP/Tea Party combined to give it national attention.
It also produced a strong Tea Party advocate gaining a congressional seat in New York state for the first time since the Tea Party emerged.
The rattling Turner victory against Weprin, 55, whom he attacked as a machine-backed perennial job holder, must still be confirmed by the Board of Election’s official count.
If that stands up, Turner will complete Weiner’s term, covering the next 14 months in office. According to some sources, it’s been about 75 years since a Republican held the seat in that district.
However, there’s a good chance that the 9th CD will be eliminated as the state legislature redraws legislative districts for the 2012 elections, putting Turner out of a job. The redistricting takes place following the most recent census which showed major population losses in New York state, causing it to lose two congressional districts.
But that aside, Turner’s victory is expected to have a jarring effect on next year’s presidential and congressional races as the Republicans and Tea Party forces will gain further political traction.
Turner’s platform, besides denouncing Obama for the Obamacare healthcare plan, also pummeled him for out-of-control government spending and a soaring national debt. The conservative choice also called for holding the line on taxes.
Turner also put forward a job creation plan, calling for eased regulations on off-shore oil drilling, reducing federal spending and the national debt, and removing labor union disputes that block job development.
Turner, the political novice, fashioned a campaign plan that kept Weprin on the defensive and weakened his vote-getting ability. This included endorsements from former pro-Israel New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Hikind, which cut into Weprin’s Jewish vote.
Weprin, a seasoned campaigner and political operative, waffled on his support for Obama, cancelled a debate which enraged the sponsors and quoted the national debt at $4 trillion—not $24 trillion—in an appearance before the Daily News editorial board.
This gaffe also was a factor in the Daily News later endorsing Turner, along with the New York Post, which gave Turner very favorable coverage during the campaign and helped his push toward a popular victory.
Despite the loss to Turner, Weprin still continues to hold onto his Assembly seat in Albany.
In other Queens races on the ballot yesterday, Michael Simanowitz, a Democrat, defeated Republican Marco DeSena in the special election race for the 27th AD seat in Flushing formerly held by Nettie Mayersohn, who retired.
And in the 23rd AD contest in the Rockaways, Phil Goldfeder, a Democrat, defeated Jane Deacy, a Republican, to become the new Assemblymember. The seat became vacant when Audrey Pheffer retired.