Koch Endorses Turner

Koch Endorses Turner

The September 13 special election to be held to replace former Congressman Anthony Weiner is, according to former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, something very special indeed. Koch, a Democrat, was in Howard Beach on Monday to formally endorse Republican candidate Bob Turner in the contest against Democrat David Weprin. And if the political veteran has his way, this local race could turn out to be a major factor in shaping national foreign policy.

Koch’s feverous crusade began in May when President Barack Obama called on Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders.  Many Jewish voters were angered by the proposal and for Koch it was the “last straw.” Now he is channeling his anger into a push for national referendum against Obama’s policies toward Israel and is seeking to make a referendum on Obama’s policy on Israel for the 9th Congressional district.

“I want to send a strong message,” Koch said Monday at a press conference at Turner Campaign headquarters. “There is no better opportunity in this country for voters to send a message to the President than in this election,” Koch said.

He referenced the victory of Republican Scott Brown in the race to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy, in what he referred to as “one of the bluest seats of all time,” and the enormous impact that had in Washington. “If David Weprin is elected do you think anyone in Washington is going to say, Oh my God. David Weprin won, we better get into shape?  No,” continued Koch. “But if Bob Turner is elected, it means something.” A swing in the staunch Democratic voting block would clearly express distaste for foreign policy at the local level in the largest Jewish constituency in the nation.

But it wasn’t foreign policy alone that contributed to the decision for Koch to back Turner over Weprin. In a statement, he details the reason for the endorsement, saying that Turner called him to express agreement on other important issues. “Bob Turner…called to tell me that he agreed with my views on the four issues raised by me: Israel, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid—and would like to wage a campaign in this district that would send a message to both parties.”

Still, despite endorsing the GOP candidate, Koch’s strong criticism of Obama was accompanied by serious scolding of the Republican leadership—“It’s the Republican position to privatize. They want to end the three entitlement programs—Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. I am outraged. They [Republican leadership] should be ashamed of themselves,” said Koch.

There is much speculation whether Koch’s logic will pan out. Some say that the snag in the plan arises from the fact that Weprin is as staunch a critic of Obama’s policy on Israel as is Turner, and that he is a supporter of entitlement programs. But Koch maintains that Weprin could not be an effective messenger. “His election would be viewed by President Obama as simply that of another Democrat elected to office in what is the largest Jewish constituency in the nation and acceptive of the President non-withstanding criticism of his positions.”

When asked about his relationship with David Weprin, Koch who has known his fellow Democrat for years, said, “I know David will never forgive me, but I can’t help it. I’ve done what I’ve done. I hope the voters of the 9th Congressional District will use this once in a lifetime opportunity to elect Bob Turner and make Washington answer to them.”

Following the endorsement, the Weprin campaign issued the following statement:  “Extremist Republican Bob Turner’s radical plan to slash federal spending by 35 percent will destroy Medicare, social security, and our ability to provide foreign aid to allies like Israel.  Voters won’t endorse that. Today, Americans watched the Washington Republicans walk away from negotiations and play chicken with our economy. In contrast, David Weprin closed multi-billion budget deficits as chair of the NYC Council Finance Committee. With more than 20 years of private sector experience in public finance, he understands what it takes to get our economy moving again.”

Some Queens political insiders say Koch might have struck a chord that could shape the course of political history “There is no doubt this endorsement raises Bob’s profile. If the Dems and independents cross the line, then it could easily represent a margin of victory,” said Queens County Conservative Party Chair Tom Long.

Also in attendance was Republican State Committeewoman Jane Deacy, herself a candidate in the September 13th election in the contest for State Assembly against Phillip Goldfedder. “I think Ed Koch’s endorsement will have great impact on the Turner campaign. If it gets the attention of angry voters, especially in the Jewish community, it could put Bob over the top.” She said it would be a coup for the entire district to see the voters say “no way” to Washington.

Turner described Koch’s endorsement as humbling, and said that although he and Koch do not agree on every issue, the social programs are not an area that is open to compromise. “These programs belong to the people of this county and they must be preserved and protected at all costs. There are only two words to describe privatization—No Way,” said Turner.

Turner said that the endorsement could prove to be the critical factor in appealing to the Democratic and independent voters he needs to carry him over the top. “I hope we will do a little better than last time,” Turner said with a smile. “Just about 11% better.” In 2010 Turner  captured 40% of the vote against Weiner.

The press conference also provided Koch with the opportunity to check in on the last Republican he endorsed from the area, City Councilman Eric Ulrich.  The two exchanged handshakes and hugs. “The fact that Mayor Koch is standing behind Bob Turner is something that people will surely take notice of,” said Ulrich. “His endorsement is a reason for Democrats and independents to read into what is really happening in this race and for them to recognize that this is a chance to make a difference in their futures.”

Republicans are outnumbered in the district by about three to one and consensus among political analysts is that Turner will definitely have to demonstrate some resistance to his own party in order to gain the support of independents.

“I have hope and faith that the people of the 9th Congressional District will rise to the occasion and opportunity presented to them,” Koch said. “We will soon see. September 13th is almost upon us.

by Patricia Adams


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