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Gillibrand Gets High-Profile Challenger

Gillibrand Gets High-Profile Challenger

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Congressman Bob Turner, who pulled off an upset victory to represent a New York City district last year, announced that he plans to seek the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a staunch LGBT ally, this fall.

Politico reports that Turner, a former cable television executive credited with bringing Rush Limbaugh to TV, declared his intention Tuesday morning. He represents the Ninth Congressional District, covering Brooklyn and Queens, which appears on track to be eliminated under a redistricting map proposed by a federal judge.

Last September, Turner shocked the political establishment when he defeated state assemblyman David Weprin in a special election to replace former congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned after sending sexually suggestive photos of himself to women on Twitter. Democrats hold a three-to-one registration advantage in the district, but Turner seized on frustration with the economy and U.S. policy toward Israel, a major issue in the district, which has a considerable population of Jewish voters.

Opponents of same-sex marriage piggy-backed on the surprise win to claim voters punished Weprin for his support of marriage equality in the state legislature. The National Organization for Marriage poured at least $50,000 into the race last minute, but minus exit polls, there is no conclusive evidence that the Democrat lost because of his marriage vote. Turner opposes repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, but he did not make marriage equality a central issue of his campaign.

Turner is one of at least three candidates vying for the GOP nomination to be decided at a party convention this Friday. Wendy Long, a favorite of the Conservative Party of New York State, which loudly opposed the marriage equality bill, is the only woman in the mix. On Monday, City Hall News reported that the former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas had been associated with a conservative newspaper "that routinely courted controversy by mocking black, gay, Jewish and female students" at Dartmouth College, also the alma mater of Gillibrand.

Since taking office in 2009, Senator Gillibrand has made advocacy for LGBT issues a signature theme, where she has worked for repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and the Defense of Marriage Act, and introduced a bill for adoption rights. A formidable fund-raiser with more than $8 million on hand, she is expected to draw heavy support from LGBT voters and women, whose participation in public life she has championed through her Off the Sidelines project.

One of the youngest senators at age 45, the former upstate congresswoman was appointed by then-governor David Paterson when Hillary Clinton stepped down to become Secretary of State. Gillibrand won her seat outright in a statewide election in 2010.

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