The announcement of Bob Turner as the Republican candidate in a special election for Congress in Brooklyn and Queens has set the stage for a heated battle to succeed disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Turner, a former cable TV executive, ran a strong race against Weiner last year, winning 40 percent of the vote against a six-term incumbent who had never before had a serious challenge. He faces a seasoned Queens Democratic warrior, David Weprin, who has won races for City Council and state Assembly, his current job, though he lost a 2009 bid for city comptroller.
Turner’s impressive showing last year was partially attributed to a backlash against the White House that is typical in midterm elections and this time ushered Republicans and Tea Party activists into office across the country, costing the Democrats control of the House. It remains to be seen whether he can capitalize on the lewd-photos scandal that cost Weiner his seat to boost his showing, particularly because a small majority of constituents said in a poll that they didn’t want the congressman to resign. Additionally, several New York Republican congressmen have recently been forced out of office in sex-related scandals.
In announcing Turner as the candidate, Queens County Republican Chairman Phil Ragusa noted that "Bob ran strongly against the incumbent last time and we know he has the momentum now going into this special election to win and send a strong message that the people need real change for the American people."
The selection of Weprin as the Democrats pick was announced on Thursday. Weprin comes from a well-known political family that has strong ties with residents, organizations and other powerbrokers in northern Queens, but his name may not be as well known in other parts of the district, particularly in the Brooklyn end, which includes part of Flatbush, Manhattan Beach and Sheepshead Bay. Other possible contenders considered in the running included former assembymember and councilwoman Melinda Katz of Queens and taxi, limousine Commissioner David Yassky and Weprin’s brother, Mark, a city Councilman. Former Brooklyn congresswoman, city comptroller and Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman also expressed interest in the job, which may well end up being a caretaker position if the 9th CD is eliminated next year in the reapportionment process, in whcih New York is required to shed two seats due to population loss.
Weprin lives a few blocks outside the district but told The Daily News his affiliation with the Orthodox Jewish community would be an asset in the race. "It’s a large Jewish population and also a large Orthodox Jewish population, a community I’ve been involved with for many years. I’m an observant Jew myself …. It’s an area I know. I grew up in a part of the district my whole life … I’m going to take this election very seriously and spend the next two months campaigning in Queens and Brooklyn.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called the special election for Sept. 13th, a day on which several vacancies for Assembly will also be filled. Interestingly, all three candidates chosen by the Queens Democratic party, chaired by Rep. Joseph Crowley, to run for vacant seats are Orthodox Jews.
Phillip Goldfeder, an aide to Sen. Charles Schumer, was selected to run for the Assembly seat recently vacated by Audrey Pheffer, while Michael Simanowitz, a longtime aide to Assembly member Nettie Mayersohn, was chosen for the race to succeed Mayersohn. Pheffer, whose district includes the Rockaways and Howard Beach, left the Assembly to serve as Queens County clerk. Mayersohn, whose district includes Flushing and Kew Gardens Hills, is retiring.