On Tuesday, in a special election to fill the vacated Congressional seat of the disgraced Anthony Weiner, voters in the heavily Democrat district in Queens and Brooklyn New York will select either David Weprin a lifelong Democrat or Robert Turner a lifelong Republican.
What makes this race significant and why it is being monitored all over the country is that it is to a large degree a referendum on Barack Obama’s policies toward Israel. The results will be an indication if President Obama has indeed alienated supporters of Israel.
Almost 40% of New York’s 9th Congressional District voters are Jewish. Year after year they elect Democrats to all levels of government and in 2008 they voted strongly for Obama. In a normal year Weprin, who represents a portion of the district in New York State’s Assembly, would be a monumental favorite to win this seat. But this year, polls show a tight race with Turner presenting a strong challenge.
To win, Turner needs to make significant inroads into the Democrat vote. This became possible with the strong intercession of former Mayor Ed Koch. Koch declared that if he lived in the District he would vote for the Republican. He did not attack Weprin, but he argued Democrats who support Israel should send a message to Obama by voting against the Democrat candidate. Koch’s message has been echoed by Democrat Assemblymen Dov Hikind. Both Koch and Hikind have formally endorsed Turner.
Both Weprin and Turner are supporters of a strong Israel. But Weprin seems weighted down by the the top of his party, Barack Obama.
National political pundits are watching to see how this race plays out and whether Israel could end up costing Obama votes in 2012.