The Republican victory in New York’s solid blue 9th Congressional District seat in Tuesday’s special election came largely with the help of an influential Democrat: former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
Koch was arguably the one single factor in helping the GOP win the battle to succeed disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner in the U.S. House.
The thrice-elected former mayor, who remains a powerful force in New York and national politics, had backed Obama strongly in the 2008 election.
A self-describer "liberal with reason," former Congressman Koch holds a hawkish view on U.S. foreign policy and national security matters.
In 2004, he cited the war on terror to cross party lines and back George Bush over John Kerry for the presidency. Koch campaigned for Bush's re-election in Florida and Ohio.
In the special election, the 86-year-old Koch urged fellow New Yorkers, and disaffected Democrats like himself, to send a message to President Obama that they give him a thumbs down for his domestic and foreign policies.
Koch, a staunch supporter of Israel, has been dismayed with Obama's lukewarm support for Israel.
The former mayor's message appeared to resonate in the congressional district that straddles the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn and is home to many Jews, including many Orthodox ones.
Ironically, Democratic candidate David Weprin is Jewish, while Turner, a 70-year-old retired businessman who is most famous for producing TV’s “Jerry Springer Show,” is Roman Catholic.
When he first endorsed Turner in July, Koch, a Jew and lifelong Democrat, said the election should be a referendum on Obama’s “open hostility to the State of Israel.”
“His hostility should concern Jews, Christians, and other supporters of Israel,” he said. “Many believe the president has conveyed by his actions and demands on that state that he is willing to throw it under the bus and end the special relationship which has existed between the U.S. and Israel beginning with Harry Truman and continuing through the administration of George W. Bush.”
Koch was particularly upset about Obama’s proposal that Israel should retreat to its pre-1967 borders.
“While President Obama has made demands upon Israel that affect its security, no comparable demand — indeed, no demands — have been made upon the Palestinian Authority before entering the peace talks,” he said.
Koch said both Turner and Weprin are strong supporters of Israel and both shared his concerns that budget talks then going on could take their toll on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
But he said electing Weprin “would be viewed by President Obama as simply that of another Democrat elected to office” in a safe seat.
“On the other hand, the election of Bob Turner in a normally safe Democratic district running against President Obama's position on Israel and against his own party's positions on the three entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would send a message to his own party leadership, as well as to President Obama.”
Koch’s involvement in the race irked the left. The New York Times, which endorsed Weprin, called it “the least helpful contribution to this race.”
The success of the GOP in a solidly Democratic district with many Jewish voters may be bode ill for the president's election, with Jewish voters being a key voting bloc in key swing states such as Florida and Ohio.
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