Are Democrats ‘Panicking’ About the Special Election for Weiner’s Seat?

Are Democrats ‘Panicking’ About the Special Election for Weiner’s Seat?

September 06, 2011 at 9:03 am

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is said to be in panic mode over the prospect of David Weprin losing to Bob Turner in the special election for the Ninth Congressional District. An accumulation of gaffes, bad press and too-close-for-comfort poll numbers have fueled this perception. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is said to be raising money for the campaign, though has yet to commit to headlining a fundraiser.

New York's special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner is turning into an unexpectedly tight race between David Weprin and Bob Tuner; some say that Democrats are in "panic" mode. Courtesy of City Hall News

As one of the lone special elections in an otherwise dreary political year, the race is being held up as a bellwether for everything from President Obama’s re-election efforts, to the administration’s policies toward Israel, to the public’s fears about the economy, to gay marriage. But for many New York Democrats, the race is much simpler: an unexpectedly tight race in a reliably Democratic district.

“The DCCC is definitely panicking,” said one New York Democratic operative. “Even Nancy Pelosi is raising money to avoid the embarrassment of Weprin losing.”

A poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) shows Weprin eight points ahead of Turner, although an independent Siena poll had the Democrat ahead by just six points and a Republican commissioned poll had Weprin and Turner tied. And Politico reported late Sunday that Weprin has received donations from several key Democrats, including Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman and Steve Israel.

The Weprin campaign is pushing back hard against the perception that their candidate is struggling. They say those Democrats wringing their hands over the outcome of the race are likely unfamiliar with both the dynamics in the district and the serious field operation currently at work in support of the candidate. And they dismissed any such talk as a result of an amplified echo chamber during an otherwise slow election year.

“‘Panic mode’ seems a little strange,” said one person involved in Weprin’s campaign. “It sounds like people who talk among themselves who don’t understand the district very well.”

Officially, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is saying the same, citing the lack of outside spending in the race as an indication that Weprin is better positioned than some might think. By comparison, a special election in Reno, Nev., has attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside spending from both Democrats and Republicans.

“The most recent polling confirms that David Weprin is well positioned for this election,” said DCCC spokesman Josh Schwerin. “In the final week Weprin has a commanding financial advantage, and a superior Get-Out-the-Vote operation to get his supporters out on election day.”

Most Democrats believe that while the race is likely to be tighter than expected, Weprin will ultimately emerge victorious. Lately, though, the Queens Assemblyman has struggled to gain the upper hand. There have been a number of missteps — Weprin’s decision to cancel a debate appearance last-minute in the wake of Hurricane Irene, and his flubbing a question about the national debt from the Daily News editorial board.

And Weprin’s family name — his father was speaker of the State Assembly, while both David and his brother, Mark Weprin, have represented parts of Queens in the Assembly and the City Council for decades — has been used by Turner to emphasize his ties to the local political machine.

Turner’s campaign has had its own stumbles, like when the candidate was forced to walk back comments he made about limiting the eligibility of the Zadroga 9/11 health bill. But despite firing off robo-calls slamming Turner for the slip-up, Weprin is being accused by some Democrats of failing to capitalize on the moment.

Read the full post at City Hall News.