With less than a week to go before Election Day, Jerry Cronin, the Republican challenger to Representative Anthony Weiner has stepped up charges against the congressman in his bid for election to the 9th District.
One of the primary arguments Cronin presents for unseating the two-term incumbent is what he calls his opponent’s “liberal” voting record in a district with more conservative views
“I don’t doubt Mr. Weiner’s sincerity when it comes to his voting record but I do question his judgment,” Cronin said. “Mr. Weiner’s 87 percent approval rating (by the American Civil Liberties Union) leads me to believe that he is very liberal. I believe the people of the 9th Congressional District are more traditional and I believe I represent those traditional values.”
For his part, Weiner has said the diversity within the district has been a benefit to him as a congressman “The extent to which there are many different views in the district makes me a better legislator. I think I’ve developed a better sense of the diversity of the country.”
The 9th Congressional District includes swaths of Brooklyn but is primarily made up of Queens communities including: Middle Village, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Breezy Point, Beach Channel, Howard Beach, Woodhaven, Elmhurst, Forest Park and Glendale. In the last congressional race, Weiner received 65 percent of the vote while the other 35 percent went to his Republican opponent.
In response to accusations from Cronin, Weiner spokesman Anson Kaye responded that the challenger was leaning too far to the right.
“While Jerry Cronin seems satisfied to tear pages from the playbook of the far right wing of the Republican party, Congressman Weiner for six years has fought and delivered for his constituents in Queens and Brooklyn, and has continually advocated fiercely for values of New York City families.”
For his part, Cronin says that he disagrees with the congressman on several points. These include a May 2004 vote against $447.2 billion for defense spending in 2005, and what he says is the Congressman’s support for higher taxes.
“Mr. Weiner is a disciple of big government, which ultimately results in higher taxes,” Cronin said. “I believe in smaller government, thus resulting in lower taxes and less bureaucracy.”
While not responding directly to these charges, Weiner has come out vocally and consistently in opposition to President George Bush’s spending plan in New York City. The congressman has said that the city lost $68 million in Homeland Security funding, was shortchanged by $1.24 billion under No Child Left Behind and received $2.9 billion less than promised for subways, roads and bridges under Bush’s transportation funding proposal. He also released a study showing that New York City, including Queens, loses millions of dollars for police, housing and education under the Bush budget.
Most recently, Weiner has introduced legislation to reauthorize the Community Oriented Policing Services or “C.O.P.S.” program, including funds to put neighborhood police on Queens streets.
Besides their stances on Bush, other differences between the two candidates are their stance on abortion and gay rights. In 2003 the National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League gave the congressman a perfect rating for his consistent right-to-choose stance. Weiner voted against the so-called “Laci Peterson Law” which would have made the murder of a pregnant woman the equivalent of taking two lives. Cronin said the vote was another example of his opponent’s liberalism.
“I once read that during Mr. Weiner’s first term in office he introduced legislation banning elephants from the circus due to cruelty to animals,” Cronin said. “How can he be sensitive to that and say that the murder of a pregnant woman is simply one death?”
As far as gay rights are concerned, although he believes that all citizens should be respected, Cronin is opposed to gay marriage. “I believe that gay marriage is too extreme a position for our nation,” he said. Congressman Weiner, he said, opposed Bush’s efforts to ban marriage between homosexuals.
As another reason not to vote for the incumbent, Cronin cited the recent controversy over $47,000 that Weiner was fined by the Federal Election Committee for fundraising violations during his 2002 campaign.
“I believe that the people of the 9th Congressional District are dismayed and disappointed that their present congressman received a $47,000 fine from the FEC.”
According to the FEC report, a fundraising committee for the congressman, “The Friends of Weiner,” took “excessive contributions from 183 individual contributors for the 2000 primary and general election for which they could not produce documentation.”
The same report said that Weiner’s campaign had misreported a loan to the candidate himself and failed to file the necessary paperwork for 29 contributions.
At the time, Kaye told reporters, “The vast majority of these (violations) would not be violations under the current rules” and added that the violations cited by the FEC were “mostly due to bookkeeping errors that were technically incorrect.”
In response to his challenger’s criticisms, Weiner said he accepted Cronin’s challenge to a debate, but his opponent backed down. “Anytime, anywhere, I’ll debate him,” the congressman recently said.
Cronin insists he challenged Weiner in August, and then didn’t hear from him for over two months. “He wanted the debate on October 26th, just seven days before Election Day,” Cronin said. “How could such a debate be fairly publicized and what impact would it have had?”
Cronin has also charged that Weiner has his sights set on being mayor and is neglecting his congressional duties. “I think Congressman Weiner is a very ambitious young man. I just wonder sometimes is he too ambitious and neglecting those who voted for him to serve?”
Although the congressman said Bloomberg should not be reelected, he will not speak about his own plans for office until after the congressional race is over. “I’m taking this election very seriously. I’m doing subway signs, TV ads and mailings. One of the ideas I want my constituents to understand is that I’m out there for them.”
Congressman Weiner began his public service career in 1985 as an aide to then Representative Charles Schumer. In 1991 he was elected to the City Council and in 1999 he was elected to Congress, taking the seat vacated by Schumer when he was elected to the Senate. Weiner, who is single, grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn and now lives in Forest Hills.
While Cronin has never held public office, he campaigned for governor in 2002 on the Right to Life ticket. In addition, he was a teacher for 17 years, 15 of those at St. Francis Preparatory in Fresh Meadows. He has also opened two pregnancy centers for unwed mothers in Queens. Despite his lack of political experience, Cronin says he is ready to hold office.
“My experience as a veteran teacher in both well-to-do and poor neighborhoods put me directly in touch with the critical and fundamental issue of quality education,” he said.
A Queens native, Cronin is now employed as a real estate property manager, lives in Rockaway Park and will marry Myriam Ikuku, who is from the African Congo, in December.
Congressmen serve six-year terms. There is currently no limit on the number of terms representatives may serve.