Despite the sweltering heat on Monday morning, Republican candidate for New York’s 9th Congressional District Bob Turner held his first, brief campaign press conference at Station Square in Forest Hills.
Queens and Brooklyn County Republican Party Chairmen Phil Ragusa and Craig Eaton officially nominated Turner as their party’s man last Friday in the Sept. 13 special election for the seat that former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn) vacated. Turner, a semi-retired TV executive from Richmond Hill, had run for the same seat last year against the incumbent Democrat, losing the election with 42 percent to Weiner’s 58.
“Apparently we have more believers than we thought,” said Turner at Monday’s conference, pleased with the turnout in 90-degree heat that showed no mercy to dark-suited supporters or reporters from Fox News, NY 1, and the Daily News.
Condemning politicians in Washington as “directionless” and “clueless,” Turner sympathized with his potential constituents in southern Brooklyn and south central Queens: “As I walk around this neighborhood and talk with friends and acquaintances, I see the continuing problem — the lack of hope that our direction can be fixed and fixed easily,” he said.
In his concise speech, the candidate underscored the city’s 9.5 percent unemployment rate, promoted the U.S.-Canada oil pipeline as a means to relieve the country’s energy crisis and advocated budget cutting that would protect social programs.
Promising to bring his “business sense to Washington,” Turner urged voters to “tell the nation they’re dissatisfied, they’re ready for a change.”
His former opponent in the bid for the Republican nomination, Juan Reyes, demonstrated his support as a party ally at the press conference, recommending Turner as a “citizen candidate. He’s only doing this because he cares about his nation,” Reyes said.
A lifelong Forest Hills resident, Reyes a former Giuliani administration official, and attorney who once worked in Washington for former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, said he shares with Turner the common goal of working toward fiscal responsibility in Washington.
He declined to comment on his ambitions for the future, although Ragusa anticipates it will be a bright one.
Of the process to select the right Republican candidate, Ragusa said the party screened 15 aspiring politicians, whittling down that number to three.Bay Ridge businessman Timothy Cochran was the first to step down.Then Reyes “graciously” withdrew his name, leaving Turner to claim unanimous support. “Bob’s been around the track once, and he deserved a second turn,” Ragusa said.
Queens Country Republican Party spokesman Robert Hornak said he thinks “the perfect storm is coming together for us — the right candidate, the right circumstances, the right timing.” Hornak expressed confidence that Turner’s campaign can overcome a 3:1 ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans in only nine weeks.
What gives Hornak hope, in part, is his contention that the political character of the district has changed dramatically since 9/11, in support of more conservative policies.
The candidate’s brother and campaign treasurer, Kevin Turner, who supports limited government, lower taxes and less regulation, speculated on the Republican’s odds: “We’re in a tough battle.The last time with a Democrat, maybe they learned a lesson,” Turner said, taking a jab at Weiner. “But I doubt it.”
Although Turner did not mention his adversary by name during the conference, he will run against Democratic candidate and Queens Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), whom Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has announced he is backing. Whoever wins will serve out the remainder of Weiner’s term in office.
Wearing a campaign T-shirt that read, “Let’s turn things around America!” Rockaway Republican President Margaret Wagner said she came out in the heat to back Turner in protest of the government’s “overspending, the corruption with the not-for-profits. I think it’s a scandal and someone needs to address it and Obamacare.”
From what she observed of Turner’s last campaign, Wagner considers the candidate a hard worker “who won’t let us down.”Although one could discredit Turner for his inexperience, Wagner said, “I kind of like that he’s a first-time politician … Career politicians are no longer on the street with the people.”
Wrapping up the conference, Edward Cox, chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, acknowledged the gaps in Turner’s resume, but endorsed him all the same: “He hasn’t been in office before, but he knows what to do,” Cox said.
Wagner believes that, unlike political hacks, Turner will not wear earplugs to block the people’s voices out.