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Democrats Nervous About Race to Replace Anthony Weiner

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There's going to be a congressional election in parts of Brooklyn and Queens in a few weeks. Call me irresponsible, but I am going to take a big leap and predict that the turnout will be low.

The purpose is to select a replacement for disgraced former Representative Anthony Weiner, the latest in a growing line of New York congressmen forced to resign from office for sexual behavior that was both horribly offensive and stupendously stupid. Not a cheerful moment. The new contenders, let's hope, will not be posting their naked anatomy on Facebook.

So you can't blame his former constituents if they just want to wipe the whole thing from their memory banks. To make things worse, Weiner's possible replacements are both extremely bland.

The Democrat, David Weprin, is an assemblyman who is the son of a former Assembly speaker and the brother of a City Council member. The Republican, Bob Turner, is a 70-year-old retired cable television executive whose biggest claim to fame is being endorsed by Ed Koch.

"Send Washington a message: vote for Bob Turner for Congress on September 13th," Koch says on his robo-calls.

The message Koch wants voters in this heavily Jewish part of the city to send is that President Obama hasn't been supportive enough of Israel. To drive the message home still further, Turner stood next to an Israeli flag when he formally accepted the former mayor's support.

Weprin, an Orthodox Jew, is also a strong supporter of the Jewish state, but Israel is not the first, second or third thing on the minds of the media, the politicians, or anyone else who will be interpreting the results for the general public.

That's the problem with voting to send a message. You don't get to choose what the message is.

This year, the message is going to be about economic policy, whether you like it or not. And the Queens/Brooklyn voters won't even get to parse which economic policy they'll be sending a message about.

If Weprin loses, the message will be that Obama was wrong in the recent national debt debacle and the Republicans were right. Period. Although Turner appears to be a moderate Republican in the New York City mold, if he wins, it will be seen as a victory for the Tea Party.

The Democrats are clearly nervous. This is bound to be a low turnout election, and the people Koch appeals to -- older Jewish voters -- are the people who will show up to vote even if the polling takes place in a blizzard, using machines that can only be reached by climbing down a very steep ladder.

Normally, I don't believe in voting to send a message anyway. The effect of your vote is to elect someone to hold office, and you should pick the one you like the best. Or hate the least.

But that might be particularly hard in this case, since the person elected, whoever he is, will serve for about a year, and then vanish into the ether when his district is dissolved in the next reapportionment.

The Democrats are trying to paint Turner as a Tea Party puppet who would vote to cut Medicare and Social Security. Turner -- and Koch, who seems to be getting as much ink as the actual candidate in the race -- says that he would support both programs.

Probably true -- there's no elected official more courageous and independent than one who knows his district is going to vanish in the next election cycle. But again, it doesn't matter. As a party, the Republicans are fiercely on the side of dramatic cuts to entitlements which would eliminate Medicare as we know it. As a party, the Democrats are against that.

And as a message, if Turner wins, the Republicans are empowered to stand their ground.

Simple as that. Vote for the boring career politician over the retired cable TV executive. Turner sounds like a nice guy. He and his wife once adopted the son of a woman who was dying of AIDS. Shake his hand if you see him on the street. But don't vote for him.

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