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Poll Shows Democrat Trailing in New York Race

Poll Shows Democrat Trailing in New York Race

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David Weprin, the New York State Assembly member vying to replace ex-congressman Anthony Weiner, may be trailing his Republican opponent, Bob Turner, by six points in a new poll, but the Democrat's vote for marriage equality does not appear to be a significant factor.

According to the Siena College Research Institute poll released Friday, Turner leads Weprin by 50% to 44% among likely voters in the Ninth Congressional District, covering Brooklyn and Queens. Last month Weprin led Turner by 48% to 42% in the heavily Democratic district, where voters will head to the polls this Tuesday for the special election.

Turner, a retired cable television executive who challenged Weiner last year, appears to have gained ground by linking Weprin to economic woes and the leadership of President Barack Obama. The national parties have begun to show elevated interest in the tightening race, which some analysts view as a bellwether contest with the potential for a Republican upset not unlike Scott Brown's victory over Martha Coakley for a Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat last year. Weiner resigned abruptly in June following a scandal involving racy photos on Twitter.

While some Orthodox Jewish leaders in the district have criticized Weprin, himself an Orthodox Jew, for his vote in support of the new marriage equality law, and the National Organization for Marriage announced it would spend $75,000 to help defeat Weprin because of his support, most voters appear to be concerned about economic issues, according to the new poll.

"One-third of voters, including nearly half of Turner supporters, say that the candidate's position on economic recovery was the single most important factor in choosing which candidate to support," according to a Siena news release. "Twenty-eight percent, including nearly half of Weprin's supporters, said the candidate's position on federal entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare, was the most important factor. The candidate's party was identified by 18 percent of voters (21 percent of Democrats and 11 percent of Republicans) as the most important factor, followed by endorsement of the candidate by a trusted source at eight percent, and the candidate's position on Israel, at only seven percent."

Despite growing support for Turner, voters believed, by a 49% to 38% margin, that Weprin would win the race. In a low-turnout election, his support from the Democratic Party and organized labor is expected to help turn out voters, compared to the weaker Republican institutional structures. The Human Rights Campaign PAC, which contributed the maximum $5,000 allowed to Weprin, has appealed to members to canvass the district for him.

During their first televised debate Thursday on NY1, the candidates were not asked about marriage equality, nor did they introduce the issue despite the attention it has received. Discussion focused on the economy, President Obama's leadership, and policy toward Israel in the hour-long broadcast likely to bring their largest audience.

In response to an inquiry about the debate topics, NY1 political director Bob Hardt said via email, "As an editorial policy, NY1 doesn't discuss how questions are prepared or asked in its debates."

During the debate Turner sought to portray Weprin, who hails from a Queens political family, as part of the establishment. Weprin responded by arguing that as a City Council member in 2008, he resisted the successful effort by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council speaker Christine Quinn to pass a controversial law extending term limits.

When Turner, who supports keeping the Defense of Marriage Act in place, was asked which candidate he backs for the Republican presidential nomination, he responded that he would be comfortable with any of the contenders. The majority of Republican hopefuls support an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.

"There's no one up there right now that I would find unacceptable," said Turner. "Some I might like more than others, but we'll see how they emerge in a competitive process."

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