Retired businessman Bob Turner won the election for the Congressional seat previously held by Anthony Weiner on Tuesday, beating Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) in a stunning defeat that some said is indicative of general voter discontent with President Obama nationwide.
Turner, who lives with his wife, Peggy, in Breezy Point, garnered 54 percent of the vote in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than three to one, according to unofficial results from the city Board of Elections. Weprin, who conceded to Turner on Wednesday morning, landed 46 percent of the vote and secured 51 percent of the vote in Queens but just 33 percent of the ballots cast in Brooklyn, according to the same results.
Socialist Workers Party candidate Chris Hoeppner received 1 percent of the vote.
“This is an historic race,” Turner, the first Republican to represent the district since the 1920s, said at his election night party at Roma View in Howard Beach. “This message will resound into 2012. We only hope our voices are heard, and we can start putting things right again.”
It was 11:59 p.m. before Weprin showed up at his campaign’s reception at Cobblestone’s Pub in Forest Hills, introduced by his brother Mark Weprin.
While the assemblyman originally denied to his stunned supporters that the clock had struck midnight on his campaign, saying there were “still a lot of votes to be counted,” Weprin conceded to Turner on Wednesday morning.
“I’m incredibly proud of the campaign that we ran and incredibly grateful to the countless volunteers who worked day after day to bring our message to voters,” said Weprin, who served as chair of the city council’s Finance Committee before being elected to the Assembly.
Israel become a focal point in the race, and former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch endorsed Turner in July because he said he wanted the election to be a “referendum” on Obama’s policies in the Middle East, which he said “threw Israel under the bus.”
Turner has said it was likely this endorsement that gave his campaign its kickstart toward victory.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) also crossed party lines to endorse Turner, and he noted on Tuesday night the groundswell of support the Republican landed from Democratic Jews in his borough.
“The people of this congressional district are speaking for the rest of America,” Hikind said. “They are sick and tired of the Obama policies … This will not be a victory, it will be a remarkable victory with the help of God.”
Democrats quickly issued statements refuting claims that the election is a foreshadowing of what is to come.
The results are “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. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Long Island), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a prepared statement.
But U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the victory spelled trouble for Obama’s re-election.
“An unpopular President Obama is now a liability for Democrats nationwide,” Sessions said in a statement.
Weprin never led Turner by large numbers, and according to a Siena poll released early in the campaign, the Democrat led the Republican by six points. That number quickly dropped when Koch endorsed the Republican, and despite support from U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and former President Bill Clinton, as well as endorsements and major resources from the city United Federation of Teachers and numerous other unions, Weprin never managed to reverse Turner’s momentum.
Walking out of the pub in Forest Hills on Tuesday night, Weprin did not answer a question about why the race was so close in a district where Democrats far outnumber Republicans.
While U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) has taken some heat for nominating a Democrat who lost, city Council President Christine Quinn did not blame the choice of candidate.
“I don’t think anyone thought this race wouldn’t be tough,” Quinn said.
The candidates took opposite sides on many issues and often sparred over finances.
Turner said he would like to cut the federal budget by 30 to 35 percent, including axing significant chunks from the departments of education and agriculture, while Weprin said he would rather raise revenue by increasing taxes on multinational corporations that often pay little to no taxes.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said Turner’s message resounded throughout southern Queens and reported that the Republican received nearly 12 times the number of votes as Weprin in the Rockaways neighborhood of Breezy Point.
“In southwest Queens in my district, Bob Turner didn’t just beat David Weprin — he kicked his a**,” Ulrich said.
Another Queens Republican did not enjoy the same success Tuesday night, as Democrat Phil Goldfeder beat Republican Jane Deacy by about 54 to 46 to capture the 23rd Assembly District seat previously held by Audrey Pheffer.
Democrat Michael Simanowitz also beat his Republican challenger, Marco DeSena, in the race for the 27th Assembly District in northern Queens.