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Weiner Has Backing, But District Might Leave Him

Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner leaves his home in the New York borough of Queens on Friday morning.
David Karp
Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner leaves his home in the New York borough of Queens on Friday morning.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has few friends in Washington these days. But a new poll shows that a majority of the his constituents in Queens and Brooklyn want him to stay in office, even after the revelation that he sent lewd photos of himself to young women over the Internet and then lied about it. The poll also suggests that many of Weiner's constituents would vote for him again — if they get the chance.

Weiner has said all week that he won't resign from Congress, despite calls to do so from both sides of the aisle. On a busy corner in Forest Hills, a middle-class neighborhood in Queens, it's still easy to find support for the embattled congressman.

Constituents Are Divided

Christopher Jusino of Kew Gardens says, "I don't think he should resign, no. Bunch of senators and congressmen, they all got skeletons in the closet. He's a good guy. And he made a mistake. He shouldn't be crucified."

"Maybe he should get a little help," says Edward Levine of Forest HIlls, "but I still would vote for him."

An NY1-Marist poll released Thursday night found that 56 percent of Weiner's constituents think he should not resign.

But even in this overwhelmingly Democratic district, there are those who have seen enough. Hugh Strauss and Francis Berland think Weiner should step down.

"I don't care about Anthony Weiner," says Strauss. "I care about an effective congressman. I care about beating Republicans. I think he's lost his credibility, and I think he's a distraction."

Berland agrees: "Those who live in tin houses should not be throwing can openers. And I think he has a certain arrogance. And he's the first to throw that can opener. And due to that, I can no longer support him."

The NY1-Marist poll found voters deeply divided over whether Weiner should seek re-election in 2012 — with a full 38 percent undecided. That describes Fran Sheldon of Forest Hills.

"That's a tough question," Sheldon says. "I don't know. I didn't like that he covered up. That was the big issue that I had. What he does in his private life is his own business. But the fact they covered it up didn't sit well."

District May Disappear

But even if Weiner's constituents continue to support him, it's not clear whether he will have a district to run in. New York state is slated to lose two congressional seats before the 2012 election. By tradition, one of those seats would come from Republican strongholds upstate, and one from heavily Democratic New York City.

Michael Krasner, who teaches political science at Queens College, says this scandal could decide which New York City district gets absorbed by its neighbors.

"Before this episode, I think you could have said he was quite safe," says Krasner. "Now it's very easy for them to eliminate his district entirely and make it impossible for him to run."

Krasner says dividing up Weiner's district would help New York's Democratic leaders in two ways.

"That would not only solve their problem in terms of his being a political liability," he says, "but it would also mean they don't have to sacrifice somebody else."

Local party officials haven't said much in public, but longtime Democratic consultant George Arzt says they are likely to support eliminating the district.

"People haven't decided what's going to happen. But they're looking at the maps. This would help everyone just to lose the seat."

It would especially help the adjacent congressmen, says Krasner. "It's prime Democratic territory. Very reliable Democratic voters. Any congressman would be happy to have them as his constituents."

Arzt says that Weiner's district surviving in its current shape seems unlikely, "but so did these events of the last few days."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.
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