Republican Bob Turner won an upset in New York’s strongly Democratic and Jewish 9th district Tuesday in a special election that focused on Obama’s views of Israel. (For Arutz Sheva interview with Bob Turner, click here.)
The seat was vacated by Democrat Anthony Weiner, who was forced to resign earlier this year after it was discovered he sent indecent pictures via social networks.
Turner, a retired cable television executive, beat out New York State legislator David Weprin, an observant Jew, the first time the GOP has held the seat in more than 80 years. It was one of two defeats for President Barack Obama Tuesday. Republican Mark Amodei won a special Congressional race in Nevada.
The election in New York won national attention, partly because of high-profile debates on President Obama’s policy that accepts most of the demands of the Palestinian Authority from Israel. The ninth district is heavily populated by Orthodox Jews.
"Tonight we sent a message," Turner told cheering supporters. "I am delighted we rejected the political rhetoric we heard in this campaign. I think Washington had better listen to us."
Dissatisfaction with the president on all fronts – including foreign policy and domestic – led to Weprin’s loss, despite intervention on his behalf from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other high-level Democratic leaders.
Weprin had lost the support of Orthodox Jew and Democratic New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind by using religion to attempt to justify his vote for the gay marriage law that carried the New York legislature in June. The fact that he backed the law at all cost Weprin Orthodox votes.
Democrats tried to downplay the loss, noting that the district’s Orthodox Jews represented a disproportionate number of voters because of their high turnout in special elections.
“This is a special election that is purely reflective of who showed up to the polls and the makeup of the district,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), chairman of the Democratic National Committee, commented. “There isn’t any comparison between districts like mine and New York Nine.”
The ninth district, especially the Orthodox Jewish community, voted strongly for President Obama in 2008 but now gives him an approval rating of only 13 percent, largely because of his backing of the Palestinian Authority.
Former Democrat-turned-Republican New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani supported Turner and said during the campaign, "Israel is our ally, not the Palestinian Authority.” He added that recognizing the PA would be the same as “establishing another terrorist state.” Former Democratic New York Mayor Ed Koch said to vote for Turner to show displeasure at Obama's behavior towards Israel.
The district’s working class, often referred to as the “Archie Bunker” vote, was less interested in foreign policy in the race. It is suffering from unemployment and has drifted away from supporting President Obama.