Repub­li­can wins seat Weiner va­cated

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SEAN LENGELL

Demo­crat David Weprin ran into an im­pen­e­tra­ble po­lit­i­cal head­wind in the Sept. 13 spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tion in New York City, as voter dis­plea­sure over Pres­i­dent Obama, is­sues such as same-sex mar­riage and Is­rael, and mis­steps along the cam­paign trail helped pro­pel Repub­li­can Bob Turner to an up­set vic­tory.

Repub­li­cans por­trayed the elec­tion for the seat va­cated by dis­graced Rep. An­thony D. Weiner as a ref­er­en­dum on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and bell­wether for the 2012 pres­i­den­tial and con­gres­sional elec­tions.

“This clear re­buke of Pres­i­dent Obama’s poli­cies de­liv­ers a blow to Democrats’ goal of mak­ing [Cal­i­for nia Demo­crat] Nancy Pelosi the speaker again,” said National Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. Pete Ses­sions of Texas.

Yet his­tory has shown that spe­cial elec­tions of­ten are more snap­shots of a district’s spe­cific de­mo­graph­ics, unique is­sues and the ef­fec­tive­ness of each can­di­date. Democrats and some an­a­lysts on Sept. 14 said the con­test this week in New York’s 9th Con­gres­sional District was no ex­cep­tion.

Siena Col­lege poll­ster Steven Green­berg, whose voter sur­vey two weeks ago pre­dicted Mr. Turner’s 6-per­cent­age-point vic­tory, called the con­test a “per­fect storm” for the GOP’s ben­e­fit.

“Peo­ple say this was a ref­er­en­dum on Obama and the econ­omy, and for some peo­ple that was im­por­tant. But ul­ti­mately races are run and lost by the can­di­dates lo­cally,” he said.

“I think vot­ers went in to the polls say­ing, ‘Which of these two guys could do a bet­ter job in D.C. [. . .] for us on the econ­omy and the is­sues that me and my fam­ily and my com­mu­nity care about?’ ”

Reg­is­tered Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans by a mar­gin of more than 3-to-1 in the blue-col­lar district, which un­til last week hadn’t elected a Repub­li­can since 1920. But the area’s mix of Catholics and Ortho­dox Jews makes it among the most con­ser­va­tive districts in the city. While Mr. Obama won the district by 11 per­cent­age points in 2008, the mar­gin was much smaller than most other New York City districts.

Democrats were quick to point to their spe­cial elec­tion vic­tory this year in up­state New York’s 26th Con­gres­sional District, a heav­ily Repub­li­can area, as proof that such con­tests are in­di­vid­ual af­fairs and not national ref­er­en­dums — de­spite spin­ning their vic­tory at the time as a re­buke of the House Repub­li­can’s pro­posed bud­get and Medi­care re­forms.

But Repub­li­cans, who also eas­ily won a spe­cial elec­tion Sept. 13 in Ne­vada’s heav­ily Repub­li­can-lean­ing 2nd Con­gres­sional District, where Repub­li­can Mark Amodei beat Demo­crat Kate Mar­shall, say the two vic­to­ries shouldn’t be dis­counted.

“There is sim­ply no ques­tion that last night’s re­sults [in both races] are an­other very bad omen for big-govern­ment Democrats,” said Rob Jesmer, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the National Repub­li­can Se­na­to­rial Com­mit­tee.

Even some Democrats called the New York elec­tion a “wakeup call,” though they said vot­ers are frus­trated with both par­ties and Washington pol­i­tics in gen­eral.

“It’s a wake-up call to Democrats and Repub­li­cans all around that the Amer­i­can peo­ple want us to get to work and find so­lu­tions to the prob­lems that we’re fac­ing [and] that the same old same old isn’t go­ing to be the case,” said Rep. Joseph Crow­ley, a New York City Demo­crat.

But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Demo­crat who rep­re­sented the distr ict for 18 years, scoffed at the no­tion that the elec­tion was a ref­er­en­dum on the pres­i­dent or Demo­cratic poli­cies.

“I’ve never heard the 9th [Con­gres­sional District] re­ferred to as a bell­wether,” Mr. Schumer said. “Any­body who tries to ex­trap­o­late, by the way, what hap­pened in this district and what would hap­pen in New York City, the state, state or the coun­try [in the 2012 elec­tions] is mak­ing a big mis­take.”

Mr. Weprin got into hot water with Ortho­dox Jewish vot­ers in the district, which spans parts of Queens and Brook­lyn, be­cause of his sup­port of a same­sex mar­riage bill this year while serv­ing in the state Leg­is­la­ture. But be­cause this vot­ing bloc is al­ready con­ser­va­tive, it’s un­cer­tain whether they would have sup­ported Mr. Weprin — an Ortho­dox Jew — any­way, Mr. Green­berg said.

“I’m not sure he could have ever won a sub­stan­tial num­ber of their votes,” he said.

Rather, gen­eral voter frus­tra­tion over the slump­ing econ­omy, a poor get-out-the-vote cam­paign and ill-ad­vised spend­ing of cam­paign money on TV ads by Mr. Weprin had at least as much to do with the elec­tion’s out­come, Mr. Green­berg said.

“You had a re­ally bad cam­paign for the Democrats and a very ef­fec­tive cam­paign by the Repub­li­cans,” he said. “In terms of per­sua­sion of the vot­ers, the Turner cam­paign won that cam­paign.”

Mr. Weprin nar­rowly car­ried the more Demo­cratic Queens sec­tion of his district but was ham­mered in the Brook­lyn precincts by more than 30 per­cent­age points.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TOGRAPHS

Repub­li­can Bob Turner cel­e­brates his vic­tor y in the spe­cial con­gres­sional elec­tion in New York City on Sept. 13 with his wife, Peggy. Mr. Turner won a seat that was in Demo­cratic hands since 1920.

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