In just one week, voters in the Ninth Congressional District will choose a representative to replace Congressmember Anthony Weiner, he of the sexting scandal. For a seat that may soon disappear, the battle on both sides has been incredibly spirited. Businessman Bob Turner versus Assemblymember David Weprin. Republican versus Democrat.
Republicans are not supposed to win around here. They haven’t held the seat since the 1920s.
But the district is not a Democratic lock: Barack Obama garnered 55 percent of the vote there in 2008, definitely not a landslide by New York City standards.
Some strange things have happened in this campaign. The first: former Mayor Ed Koch, endorsing Turner, to “send a message” to Barack Obama over his Israeli policies.
Of course, even Koch admits that Weprin is a major supporter of the State of Israel. But in a district that has a large population of Jewish voters, this issue could wind up being important.
Weprin also ducked a debate last week, blaming the storm, but wound up looking like he was hiding. In a Daily News interview, Weprin was unable to give the correct amount of the federal deficit. He said four trillion.
It’s actually approximately 14 trillion.
Weprin says it was a “slip of the tongue,” and has hammered Turner over this stand on the Zadroga health care bill. While the Republican backed benefits for cops and firefighters, he questioned whether “volunteers” should be eligible, perhaps because they had not been on the site for very long.
In addition, it is not clear that Turner’s call for a 35 percent cut in spending will sell, even in an anti-incumbent (meaning Obama) environment.
It’s no doubt that Weprin is suffering from an apparent backlash against the Obama administration. The president’s sinking approval ratings could help boost Turner’s chances. So it may not be Israeli policy but U.S. economic policy that decides this race.
I attended a debate at WOR radio this week, moderated by former Governor David Paterson, who is starting a new career behind the microphone.
Both men were polite, and each seemed to hold his own.
And both seem to be outlining plans that are polar opposites.
Can Turner win by running to the right in a blue city? Can Weprin get out from under the Obama cloud?
Ironically, it could all be for naught. The ninth may be redistricted into oblivion. And all the messages sent to Washington won’t matter to the people of Brooklyn and Queens.