Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Bob Turner, Republican candidate in the September 13 special election, talks about his run as the Republican candidate to replace Anthony Weiner as Representative for New York's 9th Congressional district.
(Related: Hear Brian's interview with Democratic candidate David Weprin here.)
Bob Turner, age 70, had a forty-year career in the television business and won 37 percent of the vote in his run against Anthony Weiner for the 9th Congressional District seat last year in his first run for office. Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch crossed party lines to endorse Turner last week, citing Turner’s hawkishness on Israel and opposition to privatization of Medicare.
The 9th CD seat covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and has been named as a likely candidate for elimination during 2012 redistricting efforts.
Turner said he’s lived his entire life in the 9th. While currently he lives in Rockaway Point, he grew up in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill. His father was a machinist who later drove a cab, and he said his parents were “not at all” political Democrats who later drifted toward a Reagan-Republican stance.
Before entering politics he was in television advertising and syndication. He started several companies and ran four over the twenty years, distributing syndicated programs to stations, including Phil Donahue and Baywatch.
Turner said his political career really began 15 months ago, and before that his participation was limited to voting and writing the occasional checks to candidates.
It began when I asked a neighbor who is involved in politics who was running against Mr. Weiner and whether he was getting a free ride, and I was told no one— but I would be more than welcome, if I wanted to take a shot.
Turner denies that Koch forced him into a promise to protect entitlements, saying they were mostly already in agreement.
His opponent for District 9, David Weprin, is an orthodox Jew who keeps Kosher, observes the Sabbath, and has been to Israel at least eight times according to a story in the New York Times. Turner is a practicing Catholic. He believes that Weprin, by saying he would follow the party caucus, has indicated a weaker position on Israel.
That [the Party] Caucus is not always in line with what is in the best interests of Israel or even the United States.
Turner believes that by supporting his candidacy gives voters a chance to voice to Washington their opposition to the president’s recent policy statements on Israel.
This district, which is as blue as an area can be— if we win this, it will send a clear and important message to the Obama administration on how they are handling a few things, and not to take the Jewish vote for granted.
Israel was not an issue in Turner’s campaign against Anthony Weiner. He said the key issues then were economic —health care and unemployment. Turner believes that his Catholic values will inform his voting, and he would oppose access to abortion for women and same-sex marriage.
Asked if a Muslim applying to work on his campaign or for his administration would require any special background check or security clearance, Turner paused.
That’s a difficult question, and one I haven’t really thought about.
Turner said he would want a dedicated staffer, and wouldn’t give “too much thought to their religious preferences.”
Turner has said he would oppose Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare and Social Security and turn Medicaid into a block grant. He said he is adamant that any changes to Social Security not apply to people who are now 55 and older.
They’re already in the system and they’ve paid their dues, they’re relying on this and I want to protect that.
Weprin has claimed that Turner’s goal of cutting spending by thirty-five percent renders that promise hollow, saying that that deep of a cut would “destroy Medicare and Social Security and our ability to provide aid to allies like Israel.” Turner said the current level of borrowing is simply unsustainable.
This has to be addressed positively from somebody like myself, with a practical business mind, and a political hack or just rhetoric.
Turner said he would support a compromise deal on the debt limit, and he would not old to the GOP refusal to consider revenue increases.
Republicans happily are saying we’re not increasing taxes, we’re just closing loopholes. I like that terminology better than raising taxes. But the reality is, revenue will be increased.
Turner begged off answering a question about guest worker visas and immigration, saying he would like to study the issue further.
In regards to the Bush tax cuts, Turner said he believes the current tax rates for the highest earners seem reasonable as they are and increasing taxes would be counterproductive to growth.
Turner said that changes will have to be made, but he thinks that Medicare should be protected.
Obamacare has cut $500 billion in the next ten years, out of Medicare. This has had a profound impact already. A hospital, a local hospital has closed already because of Medicare cuts. There is a cause and effect here.
Turner does not agree that the decline of private sector unions is contributing to income and wealth disparity or the stagnation of the middle class. He said technological and cultural changes have played a larger role.
The whole way we approach our careers and labor are just very different than it was 30 years ago, and consequentially unions are less important.
The Lightning Round
The current poverty rate in Congressional District 9:
The poverty rate keeps changing as the income level is changed.
The anthroprogenic [sic] aspects of global warming is highly suspect. It has not been proven.
What percentage of his district is foreign-born.
I would say between the Hispanic and the orthodox community.. I’d say it’s probably close to 20 or 25 percent.
I’d say illegal is illegal. There are already procedures in place, and I’d like to see the law followed, period.
This is a fairly abused program. (on being corrected that there is no DREAM act currently, Turner corrected to say that he believes it would be abused.)
Turner missed a few general elections, he said because he was in Europe at the time. While he said he has voted for a Democrat, other than Koch he couldn’t remember any specific one he had supported.
I think they’re drawing attention to some important problems. I don’t really see them as a party. They are a political movement or force bringing attention to certain things.
Skeletons in his closet?
Let me think.. no!
Biggest heroes when he was a kid:
Jackie Robinson and maybe Artie Murphy.
In a district that is four-to-one Democratic versus Republican, you have to reach out across party lines. I think if there is an election to do it, and send a message to Washington, this is it.