With less than a week until voters in the 9th Congressional District pick their new repesentative, Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind threw his support behind Republican Bob Turner to succceed Anthony Weiner.
"Mr. Turner’s background as a businessman gives him a unique advantage in dealing with the major financial crisis in this country," Hikind said at a press conference in Flatbush. "His business acumen will be a welcome asset in trying to reduce the federal deficit." Hikind also cited hios belief that electing a Republican in the heavily Democrat Brooklyn and Queens district will "send a message to President Obama about his failed, disastrous economic policies and his reckless policies toward Israel."
The endorsement came as a surprise to Weprin, who believed his fellow Orthodox Democrat Assemblyman would stay neutral in the race, after announcing he could not back Weprin because of Weprin’s support of gay marriage. Hikind represents one of the most politically conservative districts in the city, which includes Borough Park and part of Flatbush.
"[Hikind] said David was the strongest candidate on Israel and they have a long history of working together for the Jewish community," said a campaign staffer who asked not to be identified. The staffer downplayed Hikind’s nod as worth "a few hundred votes at most."
Hikind, who has a long history of crossing party lines to support Republicans such as Al D’Amato for Senate, Rudy Giuliani for Mayor, George Pataki for governor and most recently Michael Grimm for the congressional seat on Staten Island, denied telling Weprin he’d stay neutral.
"When I met with him I said that, as of now, I have not made a final decision," Hiknd told The Jewish Week Tuesday night. "I’ve been looking at this for a while and if I didn’t know David Weprin at all, it would be a no-brainer weeks ago. But at the end of the day I’m simply doing what I think is right for me."
Asked why he waited until a week before the election to decide, when the candidates were known since mid-July, Hikind said "in the last 24 hours I have been looking at this thing and discussing it with friends. To say I said I would not endose anyone is just not correct."
Hikind represents just a small portion of the district but his endorsement has been sought by candidates in citywide and statewide races because he is seen as influential among Orthodox voters and campaigns ardently in support of his choices.
Weprin has been endorsed by prominent Jewish Democrats such as Sen. Charles Schumer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as well as Sen.Joseph Lieberman, a former Democrat who became independent in 2006. A source said he was to hold an event this week with the deputy mayorof Jerusalem, Yitzchak Pindrus.
A poll released Tuesday by Magellan Strategies was the first to show Turner ahead of Weprin, though by only a slim margin — four points with a two percent margin of error. The telephone poll of 2,055 likely voters, randomly selected from voter files, was taken Sept. 1.
Of significance to Turner, who is running as the anti-establishment candidate with a strong message against President Barack Obama, more than three quarters of respondents said they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, with 51.7 percent disapproving of the president.
Both candidates have fairly low approval ratings, with just 36.9 percent saying they like Turner and 29.8 percent giving Weprin, who has a decade-long political career and a famous family name, the thumbs-up.
Weprin also had a higher disapproval rating in the poll: 34.8 percent, compared with 23.8 percent for the retired broadcasting and cable executive, who ran for the same seat last year and won about 40 percent of the vote against Weiner.
Weiner resigned in June under pressure from Democrat leaders after he admitted lying about sending an explicit picture of himself to a follower on Twitter.