The two candidates vying to represent the Congressional seat previously held by Anthony Weiner ramped up their campaigns this week, touting endorsements and trading barbs in an effort to win over voters in the upcoming Sept. 13 special election.
Republican Bob Turner kicked off the week with an endorsement by former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch in a press conference in Howard Beach that included Koch’s praise for the GOP candidate and, at the same time, criticism for Congressional conservatives.
Turner is running against Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) for the 9th Congressional District, which covers Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Hillcrest, Howard Beach, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Rockaway Park, Rockaway Point, Woodhaven and parts of Brooklyn.
“I am here this morning to suggest that the contested race in the 9th Congressional District be turned into a referendum allowing the voters of this district, the largest Jewish district in the country, to register a protest against the positions of President Obama and the Republican leadership,” Koch said.
Specifically, the former mayor said he was endorsing Turner to send a message to Obama that the 87-year-old Democrat is furious with what he perceives as the president’s hostility toward Israel. Koch did not save all his criticism for Obama, but said he was also irate that Republican leaders have proposed privatizing Social Security and that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House’s Budget Committee, has proposed privatizing Medicare and and turning Medicaid into a block grant — which would end these programs as entitlements.
He also called Republicans “scoundrels” for their handling of the debt ceiling crisis.
Koch, who noted he endorsed George W. Bush for re-election solely based on his support for Israel, and Turner said they agreed with one another on Israel, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The former mayor said Turner told him he would “like to wage a campaign in this district that would send a message to both parties.”
Turner called Koch’s endorsement “maybe the single factor that, when votes are counted on the 13th, put me over the top.”
Koch notably did not endorse Weprin, a member of his own party, who is an Orthodox Jew who has visited Israel numerous times and is a staunch supporter of the country.
“It was very painful for me to respond to David, and he called me very upset,” Koch said. “I like him, his brother worked for my administration, I have the highest regard for him on a personal level. He’s a major supporter of the state of Israel. But if David Weprin is elected, you think that sends a message? You think Obama will think, ‘oh my God, David Weprin was elected; they repudiated me?’ No.”
Weprin said he was flabbergasted by the endorsement.
“He blasted Republicans, he was all over the place, it didn’t make any sense,” Weprin said of Koch.
Weprin also stressed his support for maintaining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as entitlement programs and not privatizing them.
The Democratic candidate held his own press conference Tuesday outside the SelfHelp Austin Street Senior Center in Forest Hills to voice his support for these programs.
He also landed the backing of state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) during the event.
“What the Republicans in Congress are doing is shameful,” Weprin said. “They want to reduce the deficit on the backs of seniors, children and the working class. The Republicans want to end Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as we know it.”
Stavisky called Weprin a “fighter for Queens’ seniors.”
“David Weprin understands how devastating the Republican cuts would be,” Stavisky said.
Hevesi and Koslowitz echoed Stavisky’s sentiment.
“We are in dangerous times in America,” Hevesi said. “Republicans are negotiating to cut programs to seniors. We need to fight it. We need David Weprin in Congress.”
Koslowitz said Weprin works to better the lives of seniors, who have not seen a cost-of-living increase in their Social Security checks for two years, leaving some of them unable to pay for things like medicine and rent.
Both campaigns have issued campaign literature slamming the other, over the past week.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a statement calling Turner a Tea Party candidate with “radical goals.”
Turner’s campaign, meanwhile, sent a press release calling Weprin a “professional candidate” and stressed the Democrat’s bids for Council, Comptroller, Assembly and Congress in recent years.