With days to go before the nationally watched special election for the House seat of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D.-N.Y.), even the most rabid of Democrats will grudgingly concede that the contest in the 9th District (Queens-Brooklyn) is tighter than they ever imagined a race for anything in New York City could be.
In a just-completed Magellan Poll that can only be called breathtaking, Republican Bob Turner actually led Democratic State Assemblyman David Weprin by a margin of 44.6% to 40.4% in a district in which Democrats hold an advantage in voter registration of 3 to 1.
Magellan’s results came out less than a month after a Siena College poll showed Weprin leading Turner by a margin of only 48% to 42% districtwide. Siena College’s survey also showed 31% of Democrats backing Turner, a retired television executive who drew a handsome 42% of the vote against Weiner last fall.
Moreover, the same poll showed Turner actually leading Weprin among independent voters by 46% to 42%.
A just-completed survey conducted by pollster John McLaughlin showed the race even tighter: Weprin and Turner in a statistical tie, with each drawing 42% of the vote among likely voters in the contest on Sept. 13.
Given the tightness of the race in New York-9, a growing number of observers believe that if the 70-year-old Turner pulls off what is sure to be the political upset of 2011, it may be due to a dramatic shift in voting by the Orthodox Jewish community.
“Weprin should retain a majority of the normally heavily Democratic Jewish vote, which comprises about 20% of the electorate in the 9th District,” noted David Pietrusza, historian and best-selling author, who knows all things New York. “But he’s suffering an erosion in the Orthodox Jewish vote. And when Weprin himself has admitted ‘certain elements of the Orthodox community have called me a traitor,’ you know he’s nervous.”
Pietrusza and others note that Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind, himself an Orthodox Jew, has indicated he’s not supporting Weprin—largely on the basis of Weprin’s recent vote for gay marriage in the state legislature. The Jewish Journal just endorsed Turner, a Roman Catholic and cultural conservative, and 40 Orthodox rabbis have signed a letter blasting Weprin’s gay marriage vote. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat who is Jewish (although not Orthodox), made headlines earlier this year when he announced he would support Turner because “the election of Bob Turner, in a normally safe Democratic district, running against President Obama’s position on Israel . . . could have the impact that the election of Scott Brown had when he won the Senate seat in Massachusetts—a seat that was held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.”
Although Turner carries the ballot line of New York’s Conservative Party, the Republican hopeful is not a down-the-line conservative GOPer. Koch and other Democrats-for-Turner point out that their man has broken with his own party and does not support the plan of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would block-grant the Medicaid program and dramatically overhaul Medicare for Americans under the age of 55. Turner, however, did make it clear to HUMAN EVENTS that he supported cuts in government spending and reducing taxes “just like Reagan did.”
Can Bob Turner really pull off the upset sure to make waves nationwide on Sept. 13? One veteran Empire State Republican operative pointed out that “the unions have not even started to crank up their get-out-the-vote mechanism, and the Republican voter turnout effort is a joke.” Perhaps. But few—if any—observers expected the Republican nominee to be in a contest that’s shaping up to be this close.