I n what was termed an unusually large turnout for a special election, Bob Turner took the congressional seat vacated by Anthony Weiner and Philip Goldfeder won the Assembly seat vacated by Audrey Pheffer.
And, while the election results are unofficial and the Board of Elections declined to even provide the number of people who voted, published sources and political insiders say that Turner, the Republican candidate, won with 54 percent of the vote as opposed to 46 percent for Democrat David Weprin. Christopher Hoeppner, the Socialist Worker candidate, garnered one percent of the vote.
In the Assembly race, sources say, Democrat Goldfeder won with 55 percent of the vote over Republican Jane Deacy, who took 45 percent of the vote.
Many, including Turner, saw his victory as a message to President Barack Obama.
In his victory speech just after midnight on Wednesday, Turner told his supporters gathered in Howard Beach, “We have lit the candle today. It’s going to be a bonfire pretty soon. 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. We have had it with your irresponsible fiscal policy which endangers the entire economy and every one of our social safety nets. We have had it with your treatment of Israel …we are unhappy. I am the messenger. Heed us.”
That comment on Israel got the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd and many believe that it was President Obama’s treatment of Israel and his demand that the nation return to its 1967 borders that turned many Orthodox Jews from the Weprin camp to Turner. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said that the loss had nothing to do with the president, citing the large amount of Orthodox Jews in the district.
“In this district, there is a large number of people who went to the polls tonight who didn’t support the president to begin with and don’t support the Democratic Party, and it’s nothing more than that,” she told the New York Times. A quick survey of Orthodox Jewish websites on election night revealed the fact that many of the Orthodox voters in Rockaway and in Brooklyn were angered over Weprin’s support of the recent gay marriage bill in the State Assembly, and he may have lost critical support over that vote.
Others say that Turner’s victory shows the weakness of the Queens Democratic machine.
“They picked a candidate, rested on their laurels and wrote off the electorate,” one local Democrat, who asked not to be identified,” told The Wave on Wednesday morning.
Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer, Rockaway’s former Assemblywoman, told reporters, “Everybody knows that special elections are difficult. Is this something that Obama will look at as a reflection on him? Does he realize that? Or, was this just a TV producer who knew how to spin things? He took one statement from [former mayor Ed] Koch and turned it into a campaign.”
This is the first time in more than 80 years that a Republican has been chosen to represent the highly-Democratic district.