GOP's Turner Has a Fighting Chance for Weiner's House Seat

“Bob Turner can put New York-9 in Republican hands for two reasons,” Mark Goret, New York Conservative Party state committeeman and Conservative leader from Riverdale, explained to HUMAN EVENTS.  “First, he got 41% of the vote against [then-Democratic Rep. Anthony] Weiner last November, which is unheard of in the 9th.

“And second, he’s a businessman, a citizen-politician like Ronald Reagan.  Republicans lost the last three special elections for Congress in New York State because all of the candidates were state legislators—Jim Tedesco [NY-20 in ’09], Dede Scozzafava [NY-23 in ’10] and Jane Corwin [NY-26 in ’11]—and voters hold politicians, and especially state legislators, in contempt.”

That was quite an analysis.  But more than a few New Yorkers are beginning to agree with Goret:  Retired cable television executive and 2010 Republican nominee Bob Turner just might win the Sept. 13 special election to replace Weiner, who resigned from the 9th District (Brooklyn-Queens) seat amid a nationally watched scandal,

HUMAN EVENTS spoke to the 70-year-old Turner days after he was nominated for the special election by the Republican and Conservative Parties.  Recalling his stunning performance against Weiner last fall (long before the scandal involving lurid Twitter photos broke), Turner told us:  “It was due in large part to all the volunteers that came out and to the diverse groups in the community that thought for themselves.”

By those groups, the candidate was referring to Orthodox and Russian Jews and the growing Vietnamese community—all important political players in the 9th District.  In addition, where the 9th was long referred to as “the Brooklyn district” in the days when it was represented by Democratic Representatives Emanuel Cellar (1922-’72), Elizabeth Holtzman (1972-’80) and Chuck Schumer (1980-’98), recent redistricting has added significant portions of Queens to the district.

The tightly knit ethnic communities in the Queens portion of the district’s Italian Catholic, Republican-leaning neighborhoods in Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, Marine Park, Canarsie, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Woodhaven, South Ozone Park and Howard Beach could swing the vote to Turner.

In terms of politics, the 9th, according to a recent analysis in National Journal, “trended more Republican than any other district in the country from the 2000 to the 2008 presidential election.  Al Gore carried the district in a landslide, winning 67% of the vote.  But it gave John Kerry just 56% in 2004, a striking 11-point dip.  The gain was largely attributable to voters’ strong support of George W. Bush’s counterterrorism policies post-9/11, but four years, later John McCain carried the same 44% of the vote as Bush, even as President Obama significantly outperformed Kerry across the country.”

Put another way, New York-9 is actually more promising for Republicans than California-36, which had its special U.S. House race two weeks ago.  CA-36 gave 64% of the vote to Obama, and the Republican candidate in the special election lost by only 55% to 45%. 

“And Obama and his plans for raising taxes aren’t popular here, just as ObamaCare wasn’t popular when I ran last year,” Turner told us.  “I won’t vote for anything that looks like a tax increase. I say let’s stimulate business to create jobs and put people back to work—with cutting corporate taxes and offering tax credits for things like development and oil exploration.  Reagan did it this way and it worked before. It will work again.”

Area Democrats recently settled on State Assemblyman David Weprin as their nominee in the special election.  The son of the late Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin, David’s voting record is as liberal as it gets on economic and social issues, thus setting the stage for a classic ideological clash with Turner.

More than a few prominent New York Democrats have made it clear they are not enamored with Democratic nominee Weprin and may take a walk.  Veteran Democratic State Assemblyman Dov Hikind has suggested he may break party lines to back Republican Turner.  Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat who has backed Republicans in the past, made headlines recently when he hinted strongly he may support Turner because a Republican victory in the 9th would send a signal of disapproval of the Obama administration’s policy toward Israel.

The same day as a new congressman is elected, there will be a special election in Queens to fill the seat of the Democratic assemblywoman who was named county clerk.  Jane Deacy, Republican district leader, is thought to have a reasonable shot at winning the seat (which is within the boundaries of the 9th District) and, as Turner told us, “we help one another.”

A Republican pickup of Anthony Weiner‘s district on Sept. 13 would send political shock waves nationwide.  It is, to be sure, a long shot.  But it could happen.  David Pietrusza, historian and author who knows all things New York, put it best:  “Turner will have to hang Weprin’s liberal voting record around his neck.  He needs to catch all the breaks and make some of his own, but his strong race against Weiner puts him within striking distance.”