Bob Turner Makes His Case for NY-9, Anthony Weiner's Seat

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bob Turner, Republican Candidate for New York 9th Special Election

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.

Global warming:

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.

Immigration reform:

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.

Tea Party:

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.

Final thoughts:

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.


Bob Turner


More in:

Comments [58]

Dave from Westchester

I agree with those who feel the questioning about Israel is out of place. Our elected officials need to do what is in the best interest of the United States not Israel, the Vatican, Ireland, Palestine or anyone else. We need to elect officials who place our interests first. If those elected hold some other allegiance, they should step down because they are in direct conflict with the oaths they have taken.

Jul. 29 2011 07:59 AM
Kiki from da Bronx from Bronx

How does it go.....perfect face for radio and perfect voice for print? What is the word we can use to describe inarticulate white guys?

Jul. 28 2011 04:36 PM
Donna from NYC

jgarbuz - Israel is an apartheid state, I think that's why so many Americans are against the aid we send to them. If Israel would start acting like they really want peace then people here might not mind so much. No one wants their money to go to killing unarmed civilians that are half starved, have had their homes bulldozed and land stolen. Sorry, there is just no way to feel good about that.

Jul. 28 2011 12:09 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Nobody asks me when the US sends aid to Egypt, the Palestinians, Pakistan, et al. Or food to the Sudan. That's my taxes as well.

Jul. 28 2011 11:53 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


I will fully agree with you when the US also cuts of all aid and arms sales to Israel's enemies as well.
If the US wants to be neutral, that's fine, as long as it is 100% neutral, not aid or arming either Israel or its numerous enemies. I will support those who advocate a total cutoff of all aid and arms sales to Israel AND to all states who oppose Israel's right to exist. Equal, fair, and balanced.

Jul. 28 2011 11:51 AM
Donna from NYC

jgarbuz - Most of why you have said it completely beside the point. It isn't America's job to support Israelis, it is America's job to support Americans - period. You want to support Israel, move to Israel. American tax dollars should go to Americans.

Jul. 28 2011 11:34 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Donna from NYC,

That 2%, i.e., Jews, produced at least 10% of Americas' wealth over the last 130 years! That 2% produced half of its nuclear physicists. That 2% produced a vast amount of American music. That 2% practically invented Hollywood, a major export industry. That 2% produced the scientists who defeated Polio, a dreaded disease of the 40s and 50s. From that 2% came a wealth of invention and innovation in too many fields to mention.

So if some Jews consider the protection and defense of ISrael's right to exist as an important part of American policy, they have the right to support legislators who think the same. And oppose those who don't. I think American Jews have earned that right. When Ireland was fighting for its independence during and after WWI, many American Irish were heavily involved in that struggle.

But the fact is, the US today gives more aid to countries like Egypt, the Palestinians, Pakistan and others who've done what for America? Highlight some of the great achievements their people have produced for America? What warrants all the aid they get?

Jul. 28 2011 11:23 AM
Donna from NYC

"Brian from Hoboken
Can someone please tell me why Israel should be the main platform on which a US Congressional candidate is running? Why does 2% of the US population have such an outsize impact on out foreign policy and politics in general?"

That is a really good question and another really good question is why isn't anyone else asking this question? Is the US being blackmailed? Threatened in some way? What is really going on here?

Jul. 28 2011 11:14 AM
Mark Brown from

Will this candidate say that he WILL
NOT play these stupid political games?

Would he support a new minimum tax on all people GROSSING over 1million dollars ?

How about 1% of all GROSS income OVER 1million dollars as a MINIMUM tax.

see my blog/.... most millionaires dont even pay this...

Are you willing to put this economy into a FULL fledged DEPRESSION just to cut the budget (including tothe STATES and CITIES?>

Jul. 28 2011 11:13 AM

SUGGESTION for politician interviews:

Ask them if they know the MEDIAN income for the US.

If not, tell the interviewee: In 2009, it was $26,261*, down $159 from 2008.

Ask if they understand what that means.

Ask if they understand Marginal Utility of money.

Ask if they can figure out how people in the lower quintiles can afford a decent standard of living in this nation, in whatever district they represent.

Ask what they will do to increase JOBS. To increase income for the non-wealthy.

*From David Cay Johnston's "Scary New Wage Data," 10/25/10

One quote :

"In the Great Recession year of 2009 (officially just the first half of the year), the average pay of the very highest-income Americans was more than five times their average wages and bonuses in 2008. And even though their numbers shrank by 43 percent, this group’s total compensation was 3.2 times larger in 2009 than in 2008, accounting for 0.6 percent of all pay. These 74 people made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute one in every eight workers."

There's a lot in that quote -- HTML tags would help the reader note the important info. But do read it, please.

Jul. 28 2011 11:06 AM
Brian from Hoboken

Can someone please tell me why Israel should be the main platform on which a US Congressional candidate is running? Why does 2% of the US population have such an outsize impact on out foreign policy and politics in general?

Jul. 28 2011 11:06 AM

Believing in equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians does not make someone "anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian."

Jul. 28 2011 11:04 AM

Right on, April!

Jul. 28 2011 10:55 AM
Hank Aberle

Is this guy running on a different planet? Why does he think he has a chance? I hope he spends all his money on it and learns a lesson.
What an ass!!!

Jul. 28 2011 10:46 AM
Rita from Bedford

I was struck by how xenophobic his comments were. First and second generation immigrants are not Americans? And please, we don't say Polack anymore, why say the degragatory term Hispanic? (Latin American is the prefered term). I would not vote for this man.

Jul. 28 2011 10:46 AM
Donna from NYC

Well said April. Well Brian, what about it? Are you going to do your job or not?

Jul. 28 2011 10:45 AM
Charlie from Bergen County, NJ

He's Sarah Palin if she was an old white guy • "What books and movies have you read/seen in the last six months?"
• "Uhhh .... geez ... uh ... my wife picks them"

• "Do you believe global warming is man-made?"
• "That's totally unproven."

• "What's the povery rate in your district?"
• ""Uhhh .... there is one ... uhhh ... I believe it varies and fluctuates ... "

Jul. 28 2011 10:44 AM
April from Manhattan

Since he believes in cuts, does Mr Turner support cutting aid to Israel, whose economy is doing better than ours? Should we continue to send them weapons? Are those the same they sell to others, including Turkey? Has Brian covered ustogaza? Why, exactly, should we NOT support a UN resolution to create a Palestinian state? The right wing Likud government and its main supporters, ultra orthodox settlers have no intention of making peace. Unless we insist they do, by taking such actions, Israel will disappear. It is for their own good AND that of Palestinians, who would not accept an unarmed state while IDF soldiers are coming into Their towns and houses at night to search and harass them. I was going to write Ha'aretz on these issues, but was delighted to see that they already support most of them. Will Brian and NPR cover the boycott in Israel by Israeli intellectuals and artists of settlement cultural centers and settler products? Sadly, I doubt it. No one can say the media in the US are not unfairly slanted towards Israel, but to say so immediately elicits accusations of antisemitism.

Jul. 28 2011 10:40 AM
Beth Klein from Brooklyn

Wow this man knows very little about his voting district. While he seems sincere he is not directly answering questions about demographic and poverty within his own district. It would be a big mistake to vote for him. I think he needs to spend a good few weeks in his districts getting to know the locals and their struggles.

Jul. 28 2011 10:40 AM
michael from brooklyn

what a poor fit for nyc.

Jul. 28 2011 10:40 AM

I gathered Turner is finding The Road to Serfdom somewhat turgid, but, since he didn't have an opinion about the content, perhaps it would have been interesting to learn WHY he CHOSE to read this book.

Is it required reading for Repub candidates? Does he have a personal interest in the premise of the book?

Such a frustrating interview, but it was a nicely gentle one.

Jul. 28 2011 10:39 AM

In defense of Mr. Turner, his slow speaking style is probably bcz he's a newbie to politics. It's not easy speaking in well-formed paragraphs, with topic sentence and supporting details.

It is a skill and art which must be practiced to do well.

Our president, a great speaker of set pieces, isn't so hot speaking extemporaneously.

And, Brian, some follow ups for actual policies this person believes in would be a nice thing. Just a part of the 5W's.

This is our intro to this guy, but I'm not learning all that much. Just that he has some half-formed ideas about Israel...and....

Jul. 28 2011 10:39 AM
Nick in NJ from Lost in NJ

Geeze, your'e letting this bozo spout the RepubLIEcan gospel "we have a spending problem" - and, of course, he blames Obama... the Republicans are refusing to take responsibility for having driven the borrowing binge that put the nation in the hole it is now in. Had George W. Bush not slashed taxes, without any plan to pay for the revenue reductions, twice, the existing budget surplus would have paid down the debt.

Jul. 28 2011 10:38 AM
Robert from NYC

The skeletons were all disposed of in the east river with concrete shoes. Or maybe the Gawanis!

Jul. 28 2011 10:38 AM
emily cantrell from brooklyn

Is it just me or does it seem that Bob Turner has skirted every single question, giving no real conclusive answers?

Jul. 28 2011 10:37 AM
Robert from NYC

And BTW who really cares anymore what Ed Koch thinks!!! The man lost me in his last 4 years as mayor and he's degenerated into a crazy old fool quite quickly. He's treated, undeservedly, as if he's this great statesman, a wise elder. Well I don't think so. I'd like to not hear his voice anymore, it hurts my ears any my intellect.

Jul. 28 2011 10:37 AM

Could this bumble and stumble any more??? Ya gotta be a loon to vote for this guy!

Jul. 28 2011 10:37 AM
Daniel Zeller

Brian, You let him slide on the caller's question about raising taxes on billionaires- he dodged it by saying he didn't want to raise taxes on small businesses, but that wasn't the caller's question.

Jul. 28 2011 10:36 AM
Donna from NYC

@Elizabeth from Manhattan
"When did Israel become the 52nd State?

What country is this rookie representing?"

EXACTLY. Anyone that supports Israel should be booted OUT of congress, we need reps that have the US as their first priority.

Jul. 28 2011 10:35 AM
Patricia from Forest Hills

This guy has nothing different to say than any other Republican - spending cuts, spending cuts - yes part of the problem is we have been spending too much specifically on wars we shouldn't be involved in - but we also need to have the top 2% pay their fair share.

As for his views on Israel, it's more of the same. Any criticism of Israel makes you an Anti-Semite. How can you have a conversation with someone stuck in that ideal?

Jul. 28 2011 10:35 AM

GOP tool. Fail. Next.

Jul. 28 2011 10:34 AM
Tom from Upper West Side

Gad, I wish I lived in NY-9 so I could vote against this guy! Des he have any personal ideas, or is he just going to spout Republican talking points?

Jul. 28 2011 10:33 AM
Robert from NYC

He seems to be not qualified for this job. He seems to be slow on the uptake.

Jul. 28 2011 10:33 AM

Help! Turner said he is adamantly against Obama's health insurance reform and profit protection for the private insurers' act, but... WHY no questions from Brian as to WHAT and WHY he opposes the Obama plan?

AND, WHAT would he support?

I oppose the Obama HISRPPPI Act, but I oppose it bcz I think we must have single payer (with private suppliers of services) universal health care. It would have huge savings and we know Medicare works. So, Medicare for All, Improved.

What does Turner think is needed and would work?

Jul. 28 2011 10:32 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

An "oath of allegiance" for a Muslim, solely because he/ she is a Muslim? And he had to think about that? And it's not an absurd question to Republicans?...

And, Nick, I hear ya about his halting, uncertain, almost bumbling speaking style. He doesn't sound on the ball at all.

Anyway, not my district...We have our own problems...

Jul. 28 2011 10:32 AM

GREAT questions, Brian!

Jul. 28 2011 10:31 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

@inquisigal....."older white guy with no experience expect to get hired for the job" mean like Obama the young inexperienced black guy who expected to get the job...and got voted in for all of the wrong reasons......sigh.

Jul. 28 2011 10:31 AM
CL from NYC

Give me a break. This guy, whose every other comment is accompanied with a fatuous chuckle (apparently he finds everything funny), has no chance. He's a clear third-rater. Surely there is someone better qualified willing to run for the seat.

Jul. 28 2011 10:31 AM
tony from bayside

Triple bravo guys...

Jul. 28 2011 10:30 AM
Drew from Williamsburg

-What does he mean, "I hate to turn down Grovers money"? Is he saying that politicians sign the pledge not because they necessarily believe pledge but rather for the money? This is something on which you should followed up.
-No one is talking about raising taxes on small businesses. Why do you let him get away with saying things like that?
-He keeps railing against Healthcare Reform. Why does he okay with tens of millions of people living without healthcare?

Jul. 28 2011 10:29 AM
Elizabeth from Manhattan

When did Israel become the 52nd State?

What country is this rookie representing?

Jul. 28 2011 10:29 AM
C. Gallagher from Rockaway Park

Mr. Turner wants to see the deficit eliminated. Great. How about restoring taxes on the wealthy and corporations to where they were in 2000 before Bush evaporated what was projected to be a $6 trillion surplus -- enough to pay off most of our debt -- and left us a multi-trillion dollar deficit instead.

Jul. 28 2011 10:29 AM

Double Bravo, Shoniqua, Donna, David and Robert.

Jul. 28 2011 10:29 AM
Carl from Paterson, NJ

"Accepting Grover's money?" Really? How much does Grover Norquist shell out for GOP legislators to sign his no-tax pledge? And, more importantly, where does this unelected leader of the GOP get the money?

Also, supporting the DOMA is as disgusting as supporting the Nuremberg Race Laws, which also created second-class citizenship. No person of conscience could vote for that. If they don't want to marry someone of the same sex, it's their call, but they cannot force others to have less rights because of a "law" of dubious constitutionality.

Jul. 28 2011 10:27 AM
tony from bayside

Do the folks from the those varied neighborhoods all interested in this topic? What about jobs? How about stronger public schools? Transportation in the district would be a more interesting topic to discuss. The candidate even mentioned his own challenges commuting.

Building new transportation infrastructure would create jobs, inspire small business etc. Queens has too many lotto/deli's, and not enough bike lanes...

Jul. 28 2011 10:27 AM
Robert from NYC

Bravo Shoniqua. No other country should be an issue when voting for a political office in this country.

Jul. 28 2011 10:26 AM
David F Cope from Upper West Side

Since we're campaigning on issues that have nothing to do with Congressional or federal power, some of us would like to know if Mr. Turner would have denied an honorary degree to Tony Kushner (i.e., are you in favor of policing Jews who get out of line with orders from Netanyahu -- people like your Democratic opponent).

Jul. 28 2011 10:25 AM
Robert from NYC

No, that's what's wrong here. It's proven over and over and over again businessmen coming into politics to "save us from ourselves" fails. Do financial stuff not politics. Be an advisor to politicians but not the politician him-/hersel

Jul. 28 2011 10:25 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

Call me cynical, but only in politics can an older white guy with no experience expect to get hired for a job.

Sigh. If only the rest of us in our respective fields could have such opportunities.

Jul. 28 2011 10:25 AM
Donna from NYC

Israel? What about the US why are we even talking about Israel when we have so many problems here? Israel is an apartheid state and needs to be cut off. Our money needs to go to problems in the US!

Jul. 28 2011 10:24 AM
Nick from UWS

This guy's uncertain speaking style and inability to finish a sentence in under 20 minutes gets on my nerves. It speaks of someone who is not spontaneous, and gives the impression of an extremely guarded person who may not be truthful.

Jul. 28 2011 10:22 AM
shoniqua from Brooklyn

Why must Israel factor in here? America has its own problems. It's influence on our politics is ridiculous. These decisions should be bases on what is bets for the US. There should be a segment on this issue alone.

Jul. 28 2011 10:21 AM
Shelley from Fresh Meadows

so if you support Israel, want to protect SS... and other Democratic goals, why are you a Republican? In what way are you a Republican? How do you differ from Weprin, the Democrat who is running against you? What is your position on WalMart opening up in NY? Would you help them find and open a location in your district?

Jul. 28 2011 10:21 AM

Why don't we just add a seat to the House for Israel and have done with it? I'd like someone interested in representing NEW YORK, thanks.

Jul. 28 2011 10:21 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Koch is correct !!!!

If NY District 9 Jews still have any love left for Israel (a sad qualification)....the Democrat Party is NOT a friend of Israel in 2011.
The Black Congressional Caucus (of the Dems) has the most anti-Israel voting record in can look that up.

Jul. 28 2011 10:20 AM
Moshe Feder from Flushing, Ny

Brian, right at the start, I was really struck dumb by the list of neighborhoods the 9th district comprises and the wide area they span.

I'm not a constituent of the 9th (Ackerman is my Congressman) but please ask Mr. Turner if he thinks the district makes geographic and demographic sense and if he'd support a more compact, logical district when the new lines are drawn.


Jul. 28 2011 10:20 AM

I work in Weiner's, (former), congressional district. I'm confused. Can a republican replace a democrat?

Jul. 28 2011 10:20 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Brian, could you follow up on which candidates Mr. Turner wrote "the occasional check" to & why?

Jul. 28 2011 10:18 AM

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