Lieberman: Weprin's A Kosher Candidate
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner's departure from Congress has led to an unlikely campaign to replace him, where both candidates are fighting over their pro-Israel bona fides.
Republican Bob Turner has been questioning whether Democrat David Weprin, who is Jewish and has a long record of support for Israel, will be able to stand up to President Obama if he tries to put undue pressure on the Jewish state.
Seeking to reassure the district's sizable Jewish constituency of his deep support for Israel, Weprin trotted out an endorsement from Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn. - just days after former New York City Mayor Ed Koch crossed party lines to back Turner, saying he wanted to send a message to Obama over his Middle East policies.
Lieberman appeared at a press conference at the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency with the state Assemblyman - but it was sparsely attended as the debt limit fight played out only blocks away. In addition to Hotline On Call, only NY1, which videoed the event to be played back in the district, showed up.
"David understands that America and Israel are bound together by our shared values, our shared interests and by our shared enemies," Lieberman said in backing Weprin, who he said he's known since the 1980s. "As a congressman, I know that David Weprin will be a principled, steadfast, and very effective supporter of a strong US-Israel relationship and of a secure and free Israel."
Weprin also pointed to the one-time Democratic vice presidential nominee's maverick streak as evidence he would display a similar level of independence from the president.
"His endorsement has particular significance because it shows that he is an independent," said Weprin. "I will agree with the president when he's right, but when he's wrong, I will speak out on those issues of concern to our country, whether be Israel or other issues."
Lieberman dismissed Koch's strategy of trying to send Obama a message through endorsing Weprin's GOP opponent, saying it was unfair to the Democrat's long support of Israel.
"Sometimes the best advocates for a cause - in this case, for Israel, -- when they disagree with the president, are people within the president's own party, if they are independent minded. I've had some experience with that," Lieberman laughed. "I think David is going to be in a better position as a Democratic member of Congress to speak out against the president directly, but also to vote against his positions as a member of the House of Representatives.
Weprin told Hotline On Call in a brief interview that he's feeling confident of his chances, citing the district's significant Democratic edge and his own polling. An Orthodox Jew, he underscored his long ties to Israel, noting he's traveled there eight times and has family still living there.
"I'm taking it seriously even though the numbers weigh in my favor. Our polling shows that it's good, but you never know what's going to happen in a special election," said Weprin. "We expect that national Republicans may look at this as an opportunity to steal a special election in a district that's never gone Republican before, ever."
Turner, for his part, also issued a statement ahead of the Lieberman event criticizing Weprin for supporting the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero, which Lieberman opposed (and Koch supported). Weprin told Hotline he had also supported the group's legal right to build there.
If Weprin wins the seat, his days could still be numbered - the Queens/Brooklyn district could disappear, with the Empire State losing two seats in reapportionment. Weprin said he doesn't plan on challenging another Democratic member if he is drawn out of the district, but stressed it was too early to speculate on the 9th District's fate.
"I don't think anybody knows what districts are going to look like. All I can tell you is that the people I hope to represent in the remainder of Anthony Weiner's term need to be represented," said Weprin.
"I know the reason people are writing the obituary of the district, but is it's kind of like a LIFO - last in first out. They were saying the same thing about [new Rep.] Kathy Hochul's race. I think we'll have the discussions if I should be fortunate to get elected."