The race in the 9th Congressional District in Queens becomes more acerbic by the day, as the campaigns enter the final two weeks of this special election. The campaign of Republican Bob Turner has reportedly accused his opponent, Democrat David Weprin, of spying on his campaign. This, shortly after a dismal fundraising report: Turner’s yield so far—$203,923—was less than half of Weprin’s reported $550,000.
Meanwhile, the Weprin campaign has sent an actual
clown magician out to mock Turner’s pledge to cut a third of the Federal budget while protecting Social Security and Medicare. Turner started clarifying earlier statements, and, in at least one interview, suggested these programs could be on the long-term chopping block.
Turner’s camp has continued its push of equating Weprin to President Obama. The move appears to be paying off, as Weprin’s statements keep moving further away from supporting the president or the big ticket items like health care reform.
The race is also moving further away from reality and relevance. Both campaigns are turning into spectacle machines. Neither gives voters much more than cardboard cutouts of their opponents, next to which their lackluster candidates look deceptively real.
Look at what’s NOT being talked about.
The district is 40 percent foreign-born, yet Federal and local immigration issues have been virtually ignored. Weprin did mention his support for the Dream Act briefly in a debate, but the absence of any real discussion by either campaign points to how distant they are from those they want to represent.
The blasting the district took from Hurricane Irene should have generated a serious discussion about the district’s environmental vulnerability and needs. Yet, other than a question in the first debate about the proposed JFK extension, neither candidate has discussed Jamaica Bay preservation, beach erosion on the Rockaway Peninsula, pollution from the airport, wind farms off the coast or any other recent or future environmental concerns of NY-9 residents.
Bob Turner doesn’t believe the Federal government has a place in education. David Weprin does and the United Teacher’s Federation handed him their support. But neither has talked extensively about the educational needs of the district. A number of colleges have campuses there. The religious community, with many private education centers, has often sought government support. Nearly a quarter of the district is 19 years of age or under, according to the latest US Census numbers—what will they do for them?
The Belt Parkway, The Van Wyck Expressway, The Grand Central Parkway, The Long Island Expressway, The Nassau Expressway, The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge, The Cross-Bay Bridge, The Addabbo Memorial Bridge: these represent the life lines of the district. We know the candidates hate tolls, but what are they going to to do to make sure these and other vital elements of infrastructure stay in good repair?
The list could go on, but the point here is clear: this race is moving further and further away from substance. Maybe it’s because the district will likely only exist for 15 months more, before being redistricted out of existence. Maybe it’s because, in reality, as members of a legislative body—and the lowest in rank—whoever wins will be at the whim of their party’s leadership for committee assignments and positions.
Or maybe it’s because of the candidates themselves. Bob Turner lives in an in-district gated community. David Weprin doesn’t even live in the 9th. Does either of these candidates really understand the district they hope to represent? With both of them flunking a recent Daily News “NY-9 101” course, the answer appears to be no. In which case, regardless of who wins, the biggest loser on September 13 will be the residents of New York’s 9th Congressional District.