GOP Scores Major Upset in NY-9

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 14, 2011

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“I’m fed up with Obama,” Jim Thompson, who has lived here for 50 years, said after voting.

National Republicans had cast this contest as a referendum on the president’s Israel policy and his handling of the economy. “New Yorkers put Washington Democrats on notice that voters are losing confidence in a President whose policies assault job-creators and affront Israel,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions in a statement after the election results came in.

But not all those who supported Turner in this election had soured on the president. “I did not vote Republican because of Obama,” a registered Democrat named Virginia (she declined to give her last name) told RCP after she cast her vote. “Obama has nothing to do with Breezy [Point, a district neighborhood]; I like Barack Obama very much and I know he’s had an uphill battle.” She voted for Turner, however, because she wants someone to improve transportation into the city.

The race was too close to call in its final days, forcing both candidates to hit the streets on Election Day. Both camps had busy game day operations at their respective headquarters, as volunteers managed phone banks, drove voters to polling sites and handed out glossy place cards reminding people to cast their ballots.

Weprin had a tightly executed campaign agenda for the day, with a half-dozen scheduled stops: He caught up with commuters at a two subway stations in the morning before hitting a pair of senior centers and precincts.

He also made a stop at Public School 26 in Fresh Meadows, where just a couple blocks away a tree-lined street is named after his late father, Saul. He arrived just as school was letting out for the day and attempted to catch parents picking up their children and encouraged them to head back into the school to cast their ballots for him. Many hurried by, nodding politely or saying they’d vote later. Some stopped and remarked how he looked like the guy on the pamphlets they’d seen.

But his campaign stop was interrupted by a group of Turner supporters chanting, “Stop scaring seniors.” Weprin didn’t engage them, but his mother did. Sylvia Weprin was active in the campaign and lives down the street from the school. While she waited for her son to arrive, she told RealClearPolitics she was “feeling nervous” about the outcome of the race. “The Republicans have been so obstructionist,” she said. “They never cared for him [Weprin.]”

Asked by RCP how the contest in this historically Democratic district had become so competitive, Weprin himself insisted that was not necessarily the case. “We don’t know if it’s so close yet; the polls are not indicative of who is going to vote in a special election,” he said. “We think we have a much more energized base, people who care about preserving the entitlement programs, preserving Social Security, preserving Medicare. In the end I think we are going to get our message out and are hoping for a big victory today.”

Turner’s schedule on Tuesday was looser. A Catholic, he attended Mass at St. Thomas Church in Breezy Point before voting there. He later made stops at various polling centers around the district, took a break and met with volunteers privately.

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Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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