The special election is now over, and Republican Bob Turner bested Democrat David Weprin in what was originally expected to be an easy win for the party of donkeys. The writing was on the wall by the time 84 percent of districts had been counted: Turner had a relatively wide victory margin of 54 percent of the vote to Weprin’s 46 percent.
Now we get the political navel-gazing, the slice-and-dice of every campaign gaffe, the meticulous scrutiny of national and local sympathies that could’ve led to such an upset. After all, political reporters – the fiercest of reportorial wizards in the game of sussing out meaning, whether it’s real or imagined – must justify their salaries and fill their pages. But does any of it actually speak to local voters’ motivation?
The narrative most are buying is that put forth by Turner: this was a referendum on Obama, and a vote for Turner sends a stern message to the administration. Here’s how Turner puts it, according to Courier-Life:
“This is an historic race,” Turner told his supporters. “We’ve been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington — and I hope they hear it loud and clear: Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.”
Turner added that the message also included that voters have “had it” with Obama’s “irresponsible fiscal policies” and his “treatment of Israel.”
“I am the messenger,” he thundered. “Heed us.”
That’s also the tack taken by a Daily News editorial, which blames the president’s “toxic effect” on voters throughout the nation.
The variation on this assertion is that it wasn’t just a referendum on Obama, but specifically on his Israel policies – an early issue in the campaign that ignited with the endorsement of Turner by former mayor Ed Koch. As the classiest of all political publications – Drudge Report – put it: “Revenge of the Jews.”
But, I have to say, locally – a concept almost none of these reporters have a clue about – I haven’t heard very many people say, “Oh, I’m voting for Bob Turner to send Obama a message.”
More often it was the appeal of personality, a soft-spoken caricature of grandpa versus a clueless stick-in-the-mud sporting a porn ‘stache. Seriously, Weprin had the constant expression of a deer in headlights without ever being as adorable as a deer. Who would you pick?
And if the Obama theory can float, so can a similar theory about it being a message to Albany. With the depth of corruption and incompetence coming out of the state legislature, why would anyone vote for a state assemblyman – especially one part of a political dynasty and who was appointed to power more often than he was elected?
The fact of the matter is that, surprised as the political press wants to play, this wasn’t much of a surprise at all. New York’s 9th isn’t as reliably Democratic as they’ve been saying this election cycle. It remains one of the most conservative districts in the city, with Russian-Americans and Orthodox Jews tilting the balance to the right. Turner ran against Weiner in 2010, winning about 40 percent of the vote. No one then said it was a referendum on Obama, just that the increasingly rightward populace was lashing out against Weiner’s liberal tirades.
Since I don’t get paid by the word, or for my injections of profound meaning into otherwise mundane political developments (and why, pray tell, can’t a race just be a race anymore?), I’m not going to hazard a guess. But, unlike the writers of such dribble, I have an audience made up entirely of people living in the district. So instead, I’ll just ask you:
Why do you think Turner won? What made you vote for or against him?