The TV ads and the big endorsements are trying to make today’s special election in the Ninth Congressional District a referendum on President Barack Obama, Republican budget cuts and Israel – but a low-profile campaign among Orthodox Jews aims to make it about same-sex marriage.
The Family Research Council is raising money off Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin’s vote to legalize it. The National Organization for Marriage paid for 30,000 robocalls to Jewish homes supporting his opponent, Republican Bob Turner. And online, Weprin’s vote for same-sex marriage has been portrayed as a vote against God – even though Weprin is himself an Orthodox Jew.
“David Weprin defied Jewish law and betrayed our values,” said Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein in the robocall. “David Weprin abandoned Jewish teaching in New York State. It’s time for us to abandon David Weprin.”
After the robocall went out, Wallerstein told Vos iz Neias that he hadn’t even met Turner, but saw an opportunity to push an anti-gay marriage message.
Turner has not made New York’s gay nuptials a campaign issue, though he has benefited from those who have done so. Still, his most prominent early supporter – former mayor Ed Koch – supports same-sex marriage and says the race is about Israel and Obama, no matter what social conservatives say.
“Bob Turner has the same position with respect to gay marriage as President Barack Obama,” Koch said. “He supports partnerships and wants partnerships to be given every right gay marriages have. So that’s not it at all.”
Koch endorsed Turner early in the race, saying a vote for the Republican would send Obama a message to take a hard line on peace negotiations in Israel. That caught Weprin’s forces off-guard and brought religious issues to the fore, though Koch insists it was solely a debate about Israel.
“The Jews who are upset with David Weprin on the issue of gay marriage, they’re not upset on gay marriage,” Koch said. “They support candidates who are for gay marriage. Like [Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver – he’s their big candidate. And he’s for gay marriage. But they’re upset with Weprin. That’s what they tell me.”
The national gay-rights establishment, which pledged enormous support for the Republican senators who made same-sex marriage possible in New York, has been largely silent on Weprin’s behalf.
The Human Rights Campaign gave $5,000 from its federal political action committee to Weprin’s campaign, but the full-court press that was evident in Albany in early summer is missing from Queens and Brooklyn in early fall.
Some strategists say the same-sex marriage factor is simply overblown, and that angry Orthodox Jews are a vocal but small slice of the district.
Weprin’s campaign rejects the idea the race will turn on same-sex marriage, saying voters will make a choice based on national and economic issues.
“This is simply a non-issue that some are using to distract from what really matters to voters in Brooklyn and Queens – Turner’s plans to cut Medicare and Social Security, end middle-class tax relief and protect loopholes that encourage companies to outsource jobs,” said Weprin spokeswoman Elizabeth Kerr.
Bill O’Reilly, Turner’s spokesman, agrees.
“For Bob Turner, this race continues to be out the American economy, job-growth, and full support of U.S. allies like Israel,” O’Reilly said. “Anything else is a distraction from that focus.”
With additional reporting by Andrew J. Hawkins
Tags: Adam Lisberg, Andrew J. Hawkins, Barack Obama, Bob Turner, brooklyn, David Weprin, Ed Koch, Elizabeth Kerr, Family Research Council, Gay Marriage, National Organization for Marriage, Ninth District, NY-9, Queens, Same Sex Marriage, special election, voz iz neias
Trackback from your site.