- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Republicans, sensing they have a shot at winning the House seat from New York City vacated by disgraced former Rep. Anthony D. Weiner for the first time since the 1920s, are taking the unusual step of spending campaign money in the heavily Democratic district.

National Republican organizations typically ignore campaigns in New York’s 9th Congressional District, choosing instead to spend money on more competitive races elsewhere.

But after a recent poll showed GOP candidate Bob Turner trailing Democrat David Weprin by only 6 percentage points in the Sept. 13 special election, both the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have committed money for Mr. Turner’s campaign.

The NRCC - the fundraising arm of House Republicans - has contributed “five figures,” a senior Republican aide said. The aide wouldn’t say how much, although the New York Daily News reported Wednesday that a Turner spokesman put the total figure outside GOP groups have donated in the “$10,000 range.”

The RNC also has given Mr. Turner an undisclosed amount to help with a get-out-the-vote program, another senior aide said.

“We see the race as tightening, and we want to make sure we help provide resources in the event that it gets closer to being neck-and-neck on Election Day,” said one GOP aide. “The fact that we’re even within striking distance is historic.”

Results of a Siena Research Institute poll released Aug. 10 show Mr. Weprin leading Mr. Turner 48 percent to 42 percent in a district with three times as many Democratic voters as Republicans.

The same poll also showed 52 percent of the district’s residents had an unfavorable opinion of President Obama, giving Republicans hope that Mr. Turner could ride an anti-Obama wave to victory.

“It’s one thing for the president to be down in battleground states like Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania, but it’s a whole other beast when he’s down big in New York,” said RNC spokesman Ryan Tronovitch.

But Democrats say GOP enthusiasm to win the district - which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens - is misguided and that Democrats won’t abandon Mr. Weprin.

“The underlying theme here is it’s still a Democratic seat, and Democrats will vote for David Weprin as they continue to learn more about Turner’s radical Republican views,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Josh Schwerin.

Democrats also jumped on Mr. Turner on Wednesday after the New York Daily News reported that he told its editorial board that the Zadroga9/11 health and compensation law is too broad and shouldn’t cover volunteers sickened at New York’s ground zero. The Turner campaign pushed back at the article, with a spokesman telling the paper that “any suggestion that volunteers should not be covered is patently inaccurate.”

The Zadroga9/11 health and compensation law is named after the late New York police Detective James Zadroga.

Mr. Turner, 70, a longtime business executive, lost to Mr. Weiner by 20 percentage points in last year’s race for the seat. But the incumbent resigned in June after admitting to having sexually charged online relationships with several women, setting up the Sept. 13 special election to fill out the remainder of his term, which expires in early January 2013.

Mr. Weprin, 55, is New York state assemblyman and a former New York City Council member.