Rep. Bob Turner will be taking on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand this fall in a desperate bid to save his fledgling political career from a judge who wants to boot him from Congress,
The GOP freshman, who has been a no-show at community meetings and was about to open an office in Brooklyn, said he took the bold step after U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann released new congressional redistricting maps that would eliminate his district — which stretches from Midwood to Bergen Beach and includes parts of Queens — by the end of the year.
But Turner said that if he makes it to the Senate, he would work even harder than he did during his four months in the House of Representatives.
“There is serious work to be done to get this economy back on track and I will not walk away from that work now [just because my] district has been eliminated,” Turner said in a statement. “I will run for the Senate, and I will run to win.”
His announcement was a stunning reversal from statements he made just last week, when he vowed to defend his congressional seat, even though Mann split the neighborhoods he represented , between Rep. Ed Towns (D–Canarsie) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Park Slope). A three-judge panel is supposed to ratify Mann’s redistricting recommendations later this month.
Turner said he’ll seek Senate nominations from the state’s Republican and Conservative parties at upstate conventions later this week in order to square off against Gillibrand — a popular Democrat with an $8-million war chest who easily won her 2010 re-election by garnering 63 percent of the vote. Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by then-Gov. David Paterson.
Political insiders forsee strong opposition from GOPers Wendy Long, an attorney, Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin, and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, both of whom have been laying the groundwork for their Senate campaigns for months, according to published reports.
Turner won a surprise victory against Democrat Assemblyman David Weprin (D–Queens) in a special election last year to replace ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D–Sheepshead Bay), who resigned in disgrace amid a sexting scandal. Republican leaders claimed at the time that the win would help push Southern Brooklyn further to the right, but Turner, a retired TV executive with no previous political experience, has done little since then to raise his political star power.
Assembly, state Senate and congressional lines are redrawn every 10 years so districts jive with population shifts outlined in the census. As part of the change, congressional primaries were moved up to June 26. That gives Turner a short window of time to raise enough money for a state-wide race, or introduce himself to voters outside of his district, political analysts said.
“You have to be surprised [he’s doing this],” said political strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who estimated that Turner would have to raise at least $15 million to compete with Gillibrand. “Can he win? It’s going to be hard.”
Yet others said Turner has a good chance of beating Gillibrand.
“Coming off of his great win last year I think he’s probably the most qualified,” said Brooklyn GOP chairman Craig Eaton. “He has enough time to put it together and raise enough money to be successful.”