10:01pm

Tue September 13, 2011
Politics

Republican Wins N.Y. Democrat Weiner's House Seat

Originally published on Wed September 14, 2011 6:28 am

Republicans pulled off an upset in Tuesday's special election in New York City to replace former congressman Anthony Weiner. Bob Turner claimed victory over Democrat David Weprin.

Democrats hold a 3-1 registration advantage in the district that spans parts of Queens and Brooklyn. And they put scores of volunteers to work canvassing, but none of it was enough to stop Turner.

"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," Turner said in his victory speech shortly after midnight.

As he had throughout the campaign, Turner framed the result as a referendum on the policies of President Obama.

"We're ready to say, 'Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.'" Turner told the crowd.

It was less than a year ago that Turner, a retired cable TV executive, ran against Anthony Weiner, and lost by more than 20 points. Democrats hoped that support would carry over to state Assemblyman David Weprin. But those hopes had faded by earlier evening.

Weprin spokesman Anthony Hogrebe admitted the district is no slam dunk for Democrats.

"Keep in mind, President Obama only received 55 percent of the vote in 2008," Hogrebe said. "So it's not as democratic, or as sure of a democratic district as folks seem to think. That said, really what I think made the difference is, this is a special election. Special elections are always unpredictable."

The meaning of this special election will likely be debated well into 2012. But for some voters, it clearly was a referendum on the president.

"It's not based on Turner versus Weprin, a lot of it is anti-Obama," said Stuart Schnitzer, who lives in Forest Hills, Queens. He describes himself as a Democrat but he says he voted for Republican Turner because he's unhappy about the Obama administration's policy toward Israel.

"Hopefully my vote counts, and sends a message to Washington: Don't screw with Israel," Schnitzer said. "You have to choose your friends wisely. That's my opinion. A lot of people feel the same way."

Including Ed Koch, the former democratic mayor of New York City, who crossed party lines to endorse Turner. Koch said a Republican victory could influence the Obama administration to change its stance on Israel. But a lot of Democratic voters disagree.

"There may be some people that are voting against Weprin because they think they're voting against Obama," said Greg Stein of Forest Hills. "I don't buy it. I don't see that connection well at all."

Stein thinks voters in the district are angry about the economy, not the president's foreign policy.

"The people are really unhappy with the speed of the recovery," Stein added. "I don't think it has anything to do with national policy."

Other Democratic voters placed the blame for Weprin's defeat on the shoulders — or maybe the thumbs — of Weiner. The former congressman resigned in June after sending lewd photos and text messages and then lying about it.

"It's Weiner's fault," said Gary Brocks of Forest Hills. "He was completely irresponsible. People elect you to office, put their trust in you. You've gotta do better than that."

The seat may not stay in Republican hands for long. In fact, it could disappear altogether. New York state is set to lose two congressional districts next year, and this is expected to be one of them.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host: Let's talk more now about last night's special election results. Republicans won two Congressional seats, one in Nevada and another, more surprisingly, in heavily Democratic New York City. It was the seat of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Republican Bob Turner claimed victory last night over Democrat David Weprin. And we have more this morning from NPR's Joel Rose.

JOEL ROSE: Democrats hold a three-to-one registration advantage in the district that spans parts of Queens and Brooklyn. And they put scores of volunteers to work canvassing on Election Day. None of it was enough to stop Republican Bob Turner.

BOB TURNER (REPUBLICAN, NEW YORK): 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROSE: Turner declared victory just after midnight. As he had throughout the campaign, Turner framed the result as a referendum on the policies of President Obama.

YORK: And we're ready to say, Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

ROSE: It was less than a year ago that Turner - a retired cable TV executive - ran against Anthony Weiner, and lost by more than 20 points. Democrats hoped that support would carry over to State Assemblyman David Weprin. But those hopes had faded when Weprin spokesman Anthony Hogrebe admitted the district is no slam-dunk for Democrats.

ANTHONY HOGREBE: Keep in mind, President Obama only received 55 percent of the votes in this district in 2008. So it's not as Democratic, you know, or as sure of a Democratic district as folks seem to think. That said, really, what I think the difference is, this is a special election. Special elections are always unpredictable. You never know exactly...

ROSE: The meaning of this special election will likely be debated well into 2012. But for some voters, it clearly was a referendum on the president.

STUART SCHNITZER: It's not based on Turner versus Weprin. I think a lot of it's more anti-Obama.

ROSE: Stuart Schnitzer lives in Forest Hills, Queens. Schnitzer describes himself as a Democrat. But he says he voted for Republican Turner because he's unhappy about the Obama administration's policy toward Israel.

SCHNITZER: Hopefully my vote counts, and it's, you know, can send a message to Washington. You have to choose your friends and allies wisely. That's my opinion. It's like - I know a lot of people feel the same way.

ROSE: Including Ed Koch. The former Democratic mayor of New York City crossed party lines - not for the first time - to endorse Bob Turner. Koch said a Republican victory here could influence the Obama administration to change its stance on Israel. But a lot of Democratic voters disagree.

GREG STEIN: There may be some people that are voting against Weprin because they think they're voting against Obama. I don't really buy it. I don't see that connection very well at all.

ROSE: Greg Stein lives in Forest Hills, too. He thinks voters in the district are angry about the economy, not the president's foreign policy.

STEIN: The people are really unhappy with the speed of the recovery. I don't really think it has anything to do with national policy.

ROSE: Other Democratic voters place the blame for Weprin's defeat on the shoulders - or maybe the thumbs - of Anthony Weiner. The former congressman resigned in June after sending lewd photos and text messages and then lying about it. Forest Hills voter Gary Brocks thinks Weiner is the reason that Democrats lost the district.

GARY BROCKS: It's Weiner's fault. He was completely irresponsible. Whatever his problem is, he got elected to office. People have put their trust in you. You've got to do better than that.

ROSE: The seat may not stay in Republican hands for long. In fact, it could disappear altogether. New York State is set to lose two congressional districts next year, and this is expected to be one of them.

Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

INSKEEP: We also mentioned that special election in Nevada, where Republican Mark Amodei easily won over Democrat Kate Marshall. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.