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Next week, people in parts of Brooklyn and Queens will vote in a special election to replace former Congressman Anthony Weiner. He resigned in disgrace in June, after sending lewd messages on the Internet and then lying about it. For Democrats, the race is now causing headaches. The district is heavily democratic, but a poll out today shows the Democratic and the Republican candidates running neck and neck. Here's NPR's Joel Rose.
JOEL ROSE: If Democrats were thinking David Weprin would coast to an easy victory in a district where they hold a 3-to-1 registration advantage, they aren't now. This week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reportedly poured nearly half a million dollars into a TV ad attacking Weprin's opponent, Republican Bob Turner.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: While you struggle to pay the bills, Turner supports tax loopholes for corporations but would cut benefits for Medicare and Social Security.
ROSE: That's actually the second version of the ad. The first was pulled off of YouTube because of an image of a corporate jet flying over the New York skyline. That struck some as offensive because of the impending anniversary of September 11th. And Weprin has hurt himself with prominent gaffs, for instance, telling the New York Daily News editorial board that the national debt is $4 trillion, instead of $14 trillion. Douglas Muzzio teaches public affairs at Baruch College.
DOUGLAS MUZZIO: Weprin's got a money advantage. He's got an organizational advantage. He should win easily. But, you know, given the times and his less than stellar performance in the race so far, it's tight.
ROSE: A Siena College poll taken this week found a six-point advantage for Turner, suggesting the very real possibility of a Republican upset in New York City. The two candidates debated yesterday on local TV, sparring over who is a bigger supporter of the state of Israel and who has a better plan to cut the federal deficit. Here's Weprin's prescription.
DAVID WEPRIN: We really have to close those corporate loopholes. We have to prevent multinational corporations that make billions of dollars every year pay no taxes at all and actually get a tax break for exporting jobs overseas.
ROSE: Weprin is a state assemblyman who is handpicked by New York's Democratic leaders. But he's got his hands full with Republican Bob Turner. Turner is a fiscal conservative and a former cable TV executive who helped create "The Jerry Springer Show." Turner ran in the district last year and lost to Anthony Weiner by more than 20 points. But he's had a lot more success this year framing the race as a referendum on President Obama.
This is a chance for the voters to stand up and say, Mr. Obama, we're not going to take it. And this is one way they will clearly understand.
Even Democrat Weprin has tried to distance himself from some of the president's less popular policies. At the debate this week in Queens, he seems to hesitate for a moment before answering this question from the moderator.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Assuming that President Obama is renominated in 2012, will you support his re-election?
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROSE: Among those booing that answer was Margaret Wagner of Broad Channel, Queens. Wagner says she voted for Anthony Weiner in the past but plans to vote Republican this year.
I'm a little concerned where the country is going. I'm, you know, I am responsible for my own budget. I'd love to see the country be responsible for their budget, and they're not.
Turnout for Tuesday's special election is expected to be low. That would seem to favor Democrats, who traditionally have a better get-out-the-vote effort in Queens and Brooklyn. And Weprin is turning to popular New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for help on the campaign trail in the closing days. No matter which party wins on Tuesday, it may not hold the seat for long. New York state is set to lose two congressional seats next year, and most observers think this will be one of them. Joel Rose, NPR News.
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