As race tightens for Weiner’s House seat, GOP contender raises Ground Zero mosque issue

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
Font Size:

Bob Turner, the Republican candidate in the surprisingly competitive special election to replace disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, launched his first television ad of the race this week, attacking his opponent David Weprin for supporting the construction of a New York City mosque near the Ground Zero site.

The special election in New York’s Ninth Congressional District will take place just two days after the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks

“It’s been ten short years. Everyone remembers,” the ad’s announcer says. “Some, though, want to commemorate the tragedy by building a mosque on Ground Zero. President Obama thinks that’s a good idea. And so does congressional candidate David Weprin.”

The ad cuts to a video of Weprin saying, “I support the right of the mosque to build.”

“Bob Turner says no,” the announcer continues. “He knows Obama and Weprin are wrong.”

The controversy surrounding the mosque has been out of the news recently, but Turner spokesperson Britta Vander Linden says the issue is “back alive.”

“The reason for launching with the mosque issue is twofold,” she explained in an email to The Daily Caller. “It’s back in the news with new funders being sought to develop it and we believe the issue will offer voters a striking distinction between the world view of the two candidates. Mr. Weprin supports the mosque at Ground Zero. Mr. Turner does not.”

Vander Linden would not specify the size of the ad buy, but said it was “significant.”

“Every voter in this district will know the two candidates’ positions on the mosque issue by the end of next week,” she predicted.

A Siena poll released Wednesday found that Turner trails Weprin by just 6 points, with 48 percent of Ninth District voters saying they would vote for Weprin, and 42 percent saying they would vote for Turner.

The results were surprising, given the overwhelmingly Democratic make up of the district.

“Weiner really didn’t help,” one New York-based GOP political insider told TheDC, explaining why Weprin isn’t trouncing his opponent. The Siena poll found that just 27 percent of the district’s voters had a favorable opinion of their former congressman; 68 percent had an unfavorable rating.

A Republican consultant familiar with New York GOP politics suggested current poll numbers obscure some factors that would help Weprin on Election Day.

“Special elections are about turnout,” the consultant said, adding that much of that turnout will come from labor unions getting their members to the polls. “That’s a hidden five- to ten-percent bump right there that Turner doesn’t have.”

Republicans, on the other hand, don’t have the same level of infrastructure in that district, the same GOP consultant added: “I don’t see how they have the resources to pull out votes … If those poll numbers are real, then Turner’s peaked too soon.”

The consultant cautioned that leveraging the Ground Zero mosque controversy could ultimately prove pointless because “it’s pandering to a Jewish voter that’s not going to vote for him.”

“I think the economy’s a bigger deal,” the source told TheDC, predicting Jewish voters would respond better to campaign mailers focused on economic issues. “To be talking about that [the mosque], and not the economy, doesn’t make sense.”

Add to this the inconvenient fact that the proposed mosque would be built outside the Ninth District.

“If they see this is as the real issue, they lose,” the consultant said.

The Weprin campaign’s communications staff did not immediately respond to TheDC’s request for comment.

See the ad here: