Voters dealt a rebuke to President Barack Obama in a typically Democratic district, electing Republican Bob Turner to the New York City House seat that scandal forced Anthony Weiner to give up.
With 92 percent of the vote counted in yesterday’s special election, Turner had 53 percent and Democrat David Weprin had 47 percent, the Associated Press reported.
In another special election for a vacant House seat in Nevada, Republican Mark Amodei defeated Democrat Kate Marshall. Amodei had been favored to hold the seat that fellow Republican Dean Heller vacated this year when he was appointed to the Senate to replace John Ensign, who resigned in the midst of an ethics inquiry into an extramarital affair.
“I think it’s a big red flag,” Stu Rothenberg, editor of the Washington-based Rothenberg Political Report, said of the New York election results. He called Turner’s victory “a warning sign that voters who are dissatisfied with the direction of the country may well be more likely to take it out on the president and his party than on congressional Republicans.”
Weiner, a Democrat, vacated the New York seat in June following revelations that the married congressman had sent lewd photos of himself and messages to women over the Internet.
The House now has 242 Republicans and 192 Democrats with one vacancy.
‘Frustrated and Afraid’
“Families are frustrated and afraid, and it’s time that Washington stops spending money that it doesn’t have and starts getting people back to work,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said in a statement today. “Bob Turner will be a partner in our efforts to do that.”
Democrats played down the election results.
The vote was “not reflective of what will happen in November 2012 when Democratic challengers run against Republican incumbents who voted to end Medicare and cut Social Security while protecting tax loopholes for big corporations and the ultra-wealthy,” U.S. Representative Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement today.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters traveling with Obama that “special elections are often unique and their outcomes do not tell you about the future of regularly scheduled elections.” The president Obama spoke in North Carolina today to promote his jobs plan.
‘Not a Bellwether’
New York Senator Charles Schumer said the district, which includes parts of Queens and Brooklyn, is more conservative than others in the city. “It’s not a bellwether,” Democrat Schumer said on a conference call today with reporters.
Turner, 70, capitalized on dissatisfaction over Obama’s handling of the economy and the administration’s perceived unfriendliness toward Israel. He was endorsed by former New York City Mayor Edward Koch and state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, both Democrats, over Weprin, an Orthodox Jew.
Weprin, 55, had counted on the Queens Democratic organization to pull out a win. The party put 1,000 volunteers on the ground in order to get people to the polls for Weprin, a state assemblyman. Governor Andrew Cuomo and former President Bill Clinton recorded phone messages on his behalf.
“There’s a lot of frustration in this district,” said New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who campaigned with Weprin. “That said, it’s a special election and by definition a very small slice of the electorate comes out to vote. Whoever turns out their base wins.”
Representative Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, said before the votes were counted that Obama’s Middle East policies “shouldn’t even be an issue” because Weprin “is a very solid vote for Israel.” Still, Engel said, the campaign may be “a wake-up call” for Obama that Jewish voters are unhappy with some of his policies, including his public suggestion that Israeli borders prior to the 1967 Six-Day War should be the basis of a Middle East peace agreement.
The DCCC spent $514,247 on ads to try to hold the seat, Federal Election Commission reports show. The House Majority PAC, set up to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in support of Democratic congressional candidates, reported spending $162,656 on ads and direct mail on behalf of Weprin.
Corporate Tax Breaks
An ad financed by the DCCC depicted Turner, a retired television industry executive, as favoring corporate tax breaks over the needs of Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries.
Democrats accounted for 57 percent of the district’s registered voters as of April, according to the New York State Board of Elections, and Weiner won his seventh term in November with about 59 percent of the vote. Obama carried the district with 55 percent in 2008.
The Republican victory may be short-lived. The district, previously represented by Schumer and Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, may be one of New York’s two House seats redistricted out of existence because of the 2010 census. New York’s House delegation is shrinking in next year’s election to 27 seats from 29.
For now, Turner’s victory gives Republicans bragging rights after the party suffered an upset in a western New York House race in May. In that special election, Democrat Kathy Hochul won in the typically Republican district with a campaign focused on protecting the existing Medicare program.
That seat opened up after Republican Christopher Lee resigned following reports that the married lawmaker had sent a bare-chested photo of himself to a woman he met online.
In the Nevada race, Amodei was buoyed by spending from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which pumped $597,818 into the race, and the American Crossroads group that Republican strategist Karl Rove helped set up, which spent $261,885.
With 100 percent of the vote counted, Amodei had 58 percent to 36 percent for Marshall, according to the AP. Amodei is a former state Republican Party chairman; Marshall serves as the state treasurer. The district covers almost the entire state outside the Las Vegas area.
“Nevadans voted to send a strong Republican to Congress who will fight for more jobs and less government,” said Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Mark ran a hard-fought campaign based on his commitment to cut deficit spending, taxes and regulations to free Nevada small businesses to grow and hire more workers.”