A Republican businessman who has never held elective office trounced a career Democrat in the special election to succeed Rep. Anthony Weiner — a six-week slugfest that turned into a referendum less on the prior officeholder’s sexual peccadillos and more on President Obama.
Former TV executive Bob Turner beat Assemblyman David Weprin, 53-47 percent, with 64 percent of the votes counted. New York 1 called the election at just after midnight.
“This is an historic race,” Turner told his supporters. “We’ve been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington — and I hope they hear it loud and clear: Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.”
Turner added that the message also included that voters have “had it” with Obama’s “irresponsible fiscal policies” and his “treatment of Israel.”
“I am the messenger,” he thundered. “Heed us.”
For his part, Weprin spoke just before Turner’s victory speech and merely told his supporters that he would not concede until all the ballots were counted.
Tuesday was expected to be a normally sleepy primary day with no major city, state or federal elections. But a hum-drum political season was immediately energized in June when Weiner, lovingly referred to as the “Midwood Mouth” because of his fiery rants on the floor of the House of Representatives, resigned in disgrace for sexting and sending lewd messages to women across the country.
Once the special election was announced, party boss from both counties comprising the Ninth District chose Weprin and Turner to fight it out.
Neither man came from the Brooklyn side of the district; though Weprin boasted that his parents were borough natives, Turner took the Brooklyn portion by a much wider margin than the overall vote, early returns show.
But the election was never really about Brooklyn. Nor was it about the district, which encompasses Midwood, Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Beach and Bergen Beach.
It quickly became a mid-term litmus test on President Obama and the depth of his support for Israel.
Former Mayor Ed Koch turned the election on its ear in late July when he announced that he was backing Turner, but not because he believed in what the former television executive stood for.
He encouraged others to vote for Turner to denounce Obama’s belief that Israel should withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, giving back some land to the Palestinians.
“If David Weprin is elected, you think that sends a message?” Koch asked, when he announced that he was supporting Turner. “You think Obama is going to say, ‘Oh my god, they repudiated me. They sent David Weprin.’ ”
Koch’s endorsement marked the beginning of the GOP’s push to connect Weprin to Obama at every turn. For the next month and a half, nearly all of Turner’s campaign literature had pictures of Obama.
“American families are worse off now than they were two years ago, thanks to the failed leadership of President Obama and politicians like David Weprin,” one flier read.
But Weprin said that he and Obama were far from bosom buddies, given that he does not fully back the president’s health care reform. He also claimed that he only met Obama once — when the Commander in Chief was a Senator from Illinois.
But Weprin didn’t turn the other cheek: he took a number of shots at Turner throughout the campaign, depicting Turner as an insensitive millionaire who had flip-flopped on several key issues he had spoken out against during his failed bid to unseat Weiner in 2010, like saving Medicare and expanded death benefits to families of Ground Zero workers who die from cancer or respiratory diseases.
Overall, the Weprin-Turner fight was similar to last year’s election in Bay Ridge, where Rep. Mike McMahon (D–Bay Ridge) fell to GOP newcomer Michael Grimm amid a Republican wave.
This time, the president was targeted — and the Obama-baiting had its desired affect.
Former Assemblyman and Democratic District Leader Frank Seddio said that Russian-American and Jewish voters came out swinging for Turner — thanks mostly to GOP putting the president in the spotlight.
“Koch wanted this to be a referendum and that’s what it ended up being and that was unfortunate,” he said. “[Koch] forced people to think about a set of circumstances that will have no affect on our community and ran the risk of giving us a representative who will not represent this community.”