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Battling For Ballots

Shimmy Blum

President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are anxiously awaiting the decisions of a few thousand Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and Queens in next Tuesday’s special election — between Democrat and Orthodox Jew David Weprin and Republican and Catholic Bob Turner — that some have labeled a referendum on the Obama administration.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

If the Republican candidate manages to pull off an upset and defeat his Democratic rival in next Tuesday’s special Congressional election in New York, it may well represent a no-confidence vote in the Obama administration. But a strong contributing factor may well be the irony that enough of the district’s Orthodox Jewish voters could not bring themselves to support the Democrat, who is also an Orthodox Jew.

The June resignation of Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner left an open seat in the 9th Congressional District, which includes several neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. As many as 30 percent of the district’s voters are Jewish and about half of them are Orthodox.

Weiner’s replacement will either be fifty-five-year old state assemblyman David Weprin, a Democrat and an Orthodox Jew, or seventy-year old businessman Republican Bob Turner, a Catholic.

Democrats hold a 3-1 voter registration edge in this district that hasn’t sent a Republican representative to Washington in nearly a century.

An August Siena Poll found Weprin leading Turner by a narrow 48–42 percent margin. The poll found Obama’s approval ratings in the heavily Democratic district to be hovering at 45 percent. The New York Times reported “a surprising anger at Obama” in the race.

Nate Silver, a leading liberal political analyst notes that even in 2008, Obama barely outperformed his national margin of victory in the district. “The Ninth District remains leaning Democratic – but it has become much more competitive than might have been expected,” said Silver.

With the national economy struggling, and unemployment in the district high, Weprin concedes that he is “being dragged down by Obama.”

Turner believes that the simmering discontent gives him a realistic chance of peeling off enough Democratic voters to score an upset victory. “Several times a day, someone comes over to me and says, ‘I’m a lifelong Democrat, but I’ll be voting for you.’”


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