Turner, 70, a retired cable TV executive who has never served in elective office, defeated Democratic State Assemblyman Weprin, 55, who has two decades of experience in public service, to fill the seat left vacant when Anthony Weiner (D) resigned in disgrace in June after more than 12 years in the House.
With almost 88 percent of the voted counted, Turner had a lead of 54 percent to Weprin’s 46 percent, according to the Associated Press.
The defeat c ame as Republicans trounced Democrats in another special House election Tuesday, in northern Nevada, where Republican Mark Amodei led Democrat Kate Marshall, 56 percent to 39 percent almost from the start.
In both contests, the GOP pulled ahead by linking the Democratic candidate to Obama and his handling of the economy. Both Republican contenders urged voters to “send a message” to the president.
In the two weeks leading up to Tuesday’s elections, Democrats conceded that they could not win in Nevada — essentially a Republican seat reverting to form after some competitive races by Democrats, including Obama in 2008.
New York was a different story. National Democrats poured more than $500,000 into a last-ditch effort to save the seat and deployed former president Bill Clinton and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) to try to mobilize voters.
Both races were sparked by sexual political scandals. Weiner resigned after it was revealed that he had sent lewd photos of himself to women via his Twitter account. The Nevada seat came open in May when Rep. Dean Heller (R) was appointed to fill the term of John Ensign (R), who resigned amid allegations that he had inappropriately aided his mistress’s family.
The New York race, for a seat representing a large portion of Queens and a slice of Brooklyn, also turned on Obama’s handling of Israel and Palestine. The district’s large contingent of Orthodox Jews opposes his proposal for Palestinian statehood drawn around 1967 borders. The U.N. General Assembly is likely to vote on the Palestinian statehood issue when it convenes in New York next week.
Turner spent the final days of his campaign blasting Obama on the economy and on his perceived lack of support for Israel. Democrats worry that the apparent drag that the president had on Weprin could be repeated and amplified nationwide during the 2012 elections.
“Make no mistake about it, the albatross around Weprin’s neck is named Obama, and Democrats who value honesty will tell you privately that the president’s 37 percent approval rating in the district is making it difficult for Weprin to win a race that in almost any other time would be a slam-dunk,” Stuart Rothenberg, an independent analyst and editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, wrote Tuesday.