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Queens Chronicle

Candidates spar over mosque ad

Campaign attacks intensify in race for Anthony Weiner’s seat in Congress

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Posted: Thursday, August 18, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:10 am, Wed Dec 24, 2014.

While “jobs, jobs, jobs” seems to be the mantra of many a race —say, the one underway for Audrey Pheffer’s old Assembly seat — the candidates vying for the 9th Congressional District have adopted more of an attack, attack, attack approach.

Following a Siena Poll released last week that showed state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), a Democrat, leading Bob Turner, a Republican, by six percentage points, both candidates have issued a flurry of campaign literature touting endorsements — U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for Weprin and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Turner — and, of course, denouncing the other.

The two are running against each other in the Sept. 13 special election.

Turner, who ran against Anthony Weiner for the same seat in 2010, released a controversial television advertisement last week that shows an image of the Twin Towers burning on Sept. 11, 2001. While the image of the terror attack remains on the screen, a voiceover says, “It’s been 10 short years. Everyone remembers. Some, though, want to commemorate the tragedy by building a mosque on Ground Zero. President Obama thinks it’s a good idea. And so does Congressional candidate David Weprin.”

The mosque to which Turner refers is the Park51 project that has been proposed to be built two blocks from Ground Zero. As planned, it would be an Islamic cultural center that includes restaurants, a library, a mosque and other community facilities.

A clip of Weprin saying “I support the right of the mosque to build” is played in the commercial, which landed Turner press coverage across the country, from The New York Times to the Los Angeles Times. A source close to Weprin pointed out that the clip cuts off Weprin’s next line, which was that he would like to see the project moved further from Ground Zero.

A year ago, when the Park51 project was being heavily debated, numerous city legislators took the same stance as Weprin — that the developers should be able to build a religious institution wherever zoning permitted it but would like to see the institution further from Ground Zero. Mayor Bloomberg repeatedly voiced his support for the developers’ right to build the mosque.

The ad drew heavy criticism from Weprin, as well the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

“As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it’s shameful that Bob Turner is trying to use the tragedy for his own political gain,” Weprin said in a statement. “I knew people who lost their lives that day, and Bob Turner dishonors their memory by politicizing the attacks on New York.”

Capt. Alexander Hagan, president of the UFOA, called the television spot “very insensitive.”

“We object to anyone exploiting the pain of thousands of families who lost loved ones on 9/11 to score political points,” Hagan said in a statement.

Following Weprin’s response, Turner’s camp issued a statement calling the Republican’s opponent “deluded.”

“If David Weprin can’t recognize the placement of this mosque as an insult, then he needs to snap out of it,” said William O’Reilly, a spokesman for Turner.

Turner, who focused heavily on the mosque issue when running against Weiner and held a rally at Forest Park last year against the proposal for the center, has channeled much of his energy in this campaign blasting Obama on what he argues is the president’s hostility towards Israel.

Former Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, crossed party lines to endorse Turner, which he said he was doing to “send a message” to Obama on Israel.

To further court Jewish voters, Turner recently traveled to the town of Woodridge in upstate Sullivan County, where members of Queens’ Orthodox Jewish community vacation in the picturesque Catskills.

On Monday, another former mayor — Giuliani, a Republican —gave his stamp of approval to Turner.

“Congress is in dire need of business leaders like Bob Turner, not another career politician,” Giuliani said in a prepared statement. “This country needs to start creating jobs again and Bob Turner has the national and international business know-how to help move us in that direction.”

Weprin landed his own high profile endorsement on Tuesday — Schumer, a fellow Democrat.

“It is vital we preserve Medicare and Social Security, and the only candidate for Congress who will do that is David Weprin,” said Schumer, who represented the 9th Congressional District for 18 years, from 1980 through 1998. “David Weprin is someone we can count on to stand up for middle class Brooklyn and Queens families. He will fight against the reckless, extreme right-wing Republican policies that seek to reduce the deficit on the backs of working families and seniors, while protecting tax subsidies for big oil companies.”

Most recently, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat, endorsed Weprin on Wednesday morning.

“With our nation facing some of the greatest fiscal challenges in a generation, we need David Weprin’s financial and budgeting experience in Congress,” DiNapoli said in a prepared statement. “ … He is ready to make the tough decisions it will take to keep our fiscal house in order while protecting critical programs like Medicare.”

The Weprin campaign has issued a number of statements slamming Turner on Medicare.

“Whether or not he’s going to tell it, the voters in the 9th Congressional District deserve to know the truth about where Bob Turner stands on Medicare,” a release issued by Weprin’s campaign stated. “When talking to seniors, Turner says he won’t cut the program, but his own writing indicates otherwise.”

The Weprin campaign then referred to an editorial Turner wrote on June 8 for the National Review Online, in which he says he wants to “dramatically cut the budget by 30 or 35 percent.”

Turner has said he supports maintaining Medicare for seniors. During the event at which Koch endorsed Turner, the Republican candidate said he agreed with the former mayor’s stance supporting Medicare. Koch said Turner was “against his own party’s positions on the three entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

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