Manhattan Beach Community Group is hosting a town hall-style candidates forum between the candidates in the special election to replace Anthony Weiner in Congress at 8 p.m. tonight. But not everybody has been paying attention to each minute detail of this race, so I’m going to introduce this election from the beginning.
Hopefully by now you know the tragic story about how Weiner vacated his Congressional seat, which is based in Queens but also contains all or parts of Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Midwood, Gerritsen Beach and Mill Basin.
Weiner’s exit triggered a special election to fill New York’s 9th Congressional district. Voting begins and ends on September 13 and, unlike a normal election, there are no primaries; whoever gets the majority of the votes on September 13 will be congressman for the remaining half of Weiner’s term. The Republican and Democratic county machines chose their nominees through a closed-door insider process and Republican Bob Turner and Democrat David Weprin emerged as their respective nominees.
Bob Turner is a Breezy Point resident and a former television executive – notably he helped make the Jerry Springer Show happen. But more significant politically, Turner was the 2010 candidate against Weiner where he scored 39 percent of the vote, a surprisingly successful showing given Weiner’s incumbency, fundraising and overall electoral strength.
David Weprin is a Queens assemblyman who comes from an extremely political family – his father Saul was Assembly speaker and his brother Mark is in the City Council. Previously, Weprin held what is now his brother’s City Council seat, but gave it up in order to make a bid for New York City comptroller in 2009. He ended up in last place in that comptroller election, and afterwards, he ran for the Assembly seat his brother vacated in order to succeed him in the Council (are you still following along?).
Anyway, the race began with little fanfare and many considered Weprin a shoe-in for this heavily Democratic district. However, Turner got some quick boosts early on with the endorsement of Democratic former mayor Ed Koch, who agreed to support Turner after the candidate promised to support Israel and oppose the House Republican’s attempts to cut Social Security and Medicare.
Weprin doesn’t want to let Turner get away with vague promises to protect entitlement spending and has been consistently attacking Turner over inconsistencies in his economic philosophy. Weprin most commonly cites Turner’s professed desire to slash the federal budget by 35 percent as a cut far too deep to allow Medicare and Social Security to be fully funded.
Earlier in August, Siena Research came out with a poll showing that protecting Social Security and Medicare are among the very top issues for the district’s voters, so it makes sense that both candidates are talking a lot about this. The poll also showed a surprisingly narrow Weprin lead of six percent, as well as the unpopularity of Obama even in this Democratic district. Turner hopes to capitalize on this opposition to Obama as he appeals to the district’s likely voters, many of whom are quite elderly.
Turner’s campaign seriously stumbled last week over his suggestion that the Zadroga Act, which provides healthcare funding for 9/11 First Responders, shouldn’t cover the volunteers who worked at Ground Zero. Turner’s campaign quickly retracted, but Weprin still pounced and generated some traction.
Weprin’s campaign, in some strange moves earlier this week, seems to have reversed all of their momentum from the Zadroga dust up. First, Weprin, while touting his fiscal expertise, was about $10 trillion off when explaining the size of the federal deficit. Second, his campaign pulled out of a debate at the last second, enraging the event’s organizers and generating negative headlines across the board.
Turner thus enters today’s forum with some momentum in the news cycle and Weprin enters it with some curiosity about the direction his campaign is going.
All indications suggest this could be a very close race indeed.
Tonight’s forum will be at 8 p.m. in P.S. 195 (131 Irwin Street). It is open to the public, and the candidates will take questions from the audience.