Tomorrow, New Yorkers from the 9th Congressional District will vote for a replacement for disgraced Anthony Weiner’s seat. While traditionally a democratic district—in fact, high-profile democrats have held the congressional position for decades—Siena College polls now show Republican Bob Turner ahead of Democrat David Weprin by 6 points. And unlike most political races, this one seems to hinge on foreign policy.
37 percent of voters named Israel as “very important” in determining their votes for this election. Despite Weprin being an Orthodox Jew, Turner is winning the Jewish vote by a 56-39 margin, which is extremely unusual for a Republican candidate.
President Obama’s perceived cooling towards Israel could negatively impact Democratic chances in this election. Obama’s approval rating recently sank below 50 percent, and is even worse within the Jewish community.
“Certainly Obama job approval in the 40s as opposed to 50s depresses the Democratic base,” explained one anonymous Democratic consultant to the Washington Post. “And in a small-turnout electorate, this has consequences.”
Some believe this race heralds a rightward shift in the Jewish community in the coming elections. At the close of WWII, Jews gravitated to the left because anti-Semitism sprang from the political right. But now, modern variant anti-Zionism is firmly of the left, with many liberals taking up the Palestinian cause. In contrast, Christian groups and the political right have become solidly pro-Israel in recent years. However, the 9th district boasts a high concentration of Russian Orthodox Jews, who may not reflect the attitudes of the Jewish electorate on a national level.
National Democrats, worried about the consequences of a Weprin loss, have spent nearly half a million on television ads to win back public favor. On the other side, the Republican Jewish Coalition sent mailers to 30,000 Jewish home in New York’s 9th to promote Turner.
A statement released by RJC executive director Matt Brooks frames the issue outside of the outcome of the election. "This race highlights the serious problems that President Obama has in the Jewish community because of his policies regarding Israel. Without question, Obama’s policies are causing significant numbers of Jewish voters to re-examine their loyalty to the Democratic Party."
New York’s population growth is slower than the national average, causing the state’s congressional delegation to shrink by two seats. Many local political observers expect district 9 to be among the eliminated.