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GOP hopes to sweep special elections in New York, Nevada

September 12, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times
  • Democratic congressional candidate David Weprin, center, waits as he is introduced to the lunch crowd at the Rockaway Park Senior Center in Queens, N.Y., this month. A recent preference poll shows Weprin trailing his Republican opponent, Robert Turner, in the traditionally Democratic stronghold.
Democratic congressional candidate David Weprin, center, waits as he… (Bebeto Matthews / Associated…)

Republicans are eyeing strong showings in two special congressional elections on Tuesday, one in Nevada, where the GOP is expected to hold on to one of its seats, and the other in New York City, where a stoutly Democratic district could change hands.

The race getting the most national attention is in the New York district once represented by Democrat Anthony Weiner, who forced to resign after he was caught using the Internet to transmit salacious photos of himself to women. He held the seat from 1999 until he stepped down in January.

A Democratic candidate such as David Weprin should have had no trouble holding off the conservative Republican challenger, Robert Turner, who ran and lost to Weiner. But a recent Siena poll shows Turner six percentage points ahead of the Democrat, a state legislator and son of a former speaker of the State Assembly.

Fearing a loss, national Democrats have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into last-minute media buys in the district. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former President Bill Clinton are featured in a robo-call campaign to get the vote out for Weprin.

The race has widely been viewed as a test of feelings about President Obama, whose approval rating has fallen in recent months. Complicating the battle has been an endorsement by former Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, of Turner. Koch said he was backing the Republican to send the Obama administration a message that many oppose its policies, particularly those on Israel and Mideast peace talks.

Obama carried the district by better than 10 points three years ago. But the president has had a sharp reversal. Recent polls show he has a 43% favorability rating while 54% say they are unhappy.

Weprin has campaigned on traditional Democratic issues, such as opposing the GOP which he charges wants to dismantle Social Security and Medicare. A strong supporter of Israel, Weprin has been seen in recent weeks as trying to distance himself a bit from Obama, saying he would only “probably” endorse the president for reelection.

Things are much simpler in Nevada, where the Republican candidate, Mark Amodei, holds a sizable lead in polls over Democrat Kate Marshall, the state treasurer, in the race for the seat representing the state’s 2nd Congressional District. The seat was held by Republican Dean Heller, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate when John Ensign stepped down.

According to the latest survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling company, Amodei leads Marshall, 50% to 37%, and two other candidates score in the single digits. When PPP surveyed the district three weeks ago, the race was more competitive, with Amodei ahead by just 43% to 42%.

Amodei has widened his lead after waging a strong campaign in a district considered solidly Republican. He was also reportedly helped by more than $600,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

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