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NOM Pours Money Into New York Race

NOM Pours Money Into New York Race


The National Organization for Marriage announced it would spend $75,000 to help defeat New York State Assembly member David Weprin, a Democrat who voted for marriage equality now running in a special election to replace ex-congressman Anthony Weiner.

The New York Timesreports on the considerable spending, which includes $26,000 for direct-mail advertising against Weprin and $19,000 in support of Republican candidate Bob Turner, a retired cable television executive opposed to marriage equality. NOM also intends to spend $30,000 on phone calls, more mailings, and a get-out-the-vote effort before the election this Tuesday.

"The spending by the organization is significant in what is a relatively low-budget race in the Ninth Congressional District, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens," according to the Times. "Mr. Weprin and Mr. Turner had raised only about $650,000 between the two of them by late August, according to campaign finance filings, and the group's $45,000 outlay is the largest so-called independent expenditure in the race to date."

Compared to NOM's independent expenditures, the Human Rights Campaign, one of five groups that led the effort to pass the marriage equality law in New York, contributed $5,000 to Weprin, the maximum allowed for its federal PAC. The group sent email blasts to members asking them to canvass and phone-bank for its endorsed candidate. Democratic LGBT political clubs and elected officials also have endorsed Weprin and raised funds for him.

Weprin, an Orthodox Jew, has received criticism from some Orthodox leaders because of his vote for marriage equality, which he explained on the Assembly floor last June in the context of his religion. Orthodox Jewish voters make up approximately 30% of the voters in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, and their support could prove determinative to victory. Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn assemblyman who memorably waved a photo of Lady Gaga and a copy of the Torah in his own floor speech against marriage equality, crossed party lines Wednesday to endorse Turner.

During public appearances, neither candidate has seemed especially eager to inject marriage equality into a race largely seen as a referendum on the economy and President Obama's leadership. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat who supported the marriage equality law, endorsed Turner in July with the intention of sending a message to President Obama about his policy toward Israel.

"They're clearly still steamed about the legislative victory we achieved in June, but as much as NOM wants to make this special election a referendum on marriage equality, it just isn't," said Gregory T. Angelo, chair of the Log Cabin Republicans of New York, in a telephone interview with The Advocate. Log Cabin worked in the coalition with HRC to pass the marriage equality law.

Polls from recent weeks show the race tightening as popular Democrats including Gov. Andrew Cuomo have started to campaign for Weprin. Republicans also express an interest in Turner, who took 40% of the vote in his last campaign against Weiner, the Democrat who resigned this summer after lying about sending racy photos to young women followers on Twitter. The former congressman staunchly supported pro-equality legislation and enjoyed popularity among constituents.

"There's a lot of excitement going on right now about this race," said Angelo. "By virtue of the fact that it is a special election in an off year, the opportunities for this race to resonate on a national scale have multiplied exponentially."

Angelo said he and another board member met formally with representatives of the Turner campaign for the first time Wednesday and had a "great meeting," but it was unlikely that the national chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, which weighs in on races for federal office, would make an endorsement at this late stage.

"At this late juncture, it's unlikely, and that's mostly an issue of timing," he said. "It's a little late now in the game to make an endorsement."

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Julie Bolcer