Polling in the New York special election race to fill former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner’s vacant House seat has shown a surprisingly tight race. Some say it is the effect of Republican Bob Turner’s endorsements by previous New York Mayors Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, and Ed Koch, a Democrat.
Koch based his support of Turner, an Irish Catholic, over Democrat David Weprin, an Orthodox Jew, claiming that electing Turner would send a message to President Barack Obama regarding his policies on Israel, and encouraged others of the conservative and Orthodox Jewish face to vote Turner in September.
But David Weprin’s soft support in the Orthodox Jewish community may have less to do with Koch’s recommendation to stick one to Obama and more to do with the candidate’s open and vocal support of gay marriage.
Insiders say Assemblyman David Weprin, running in the special election for Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat, is facing a revolt among Orthodox Jews – though he himself is an Orthodox Jew – because he strongly defended same-sex marriage during an Albany debate.
In his June 15 speech, Weprin said his own Orthodox rabbi would not marry a Jew and a non-Jew, which he felt was wrong – and that gay marriage was no different.
“My religion is very important to me personally, but this is not a religious issue,” Weprin said. “I think everyone here would agree that we should not be outlawing marriages between Jews and non-Jews or interracial marriages.”
With most of the attention at the time focused on the vote counting in the state Senate, Weprin’s comment garnered little notice in the wider world. But his rhetoric has since gained wide attention by many in the Orthodox Jewish community, and videos of his speech have rocketed across their websites.
Weprin has since been struggling to regain the support from his religious community, but the going hasn’t been easy. Several Orthodox politicians or action groups have either withheld endorsement all together, or have signaled that they will likely endorse Turner instead, providing the potential for a Republican upset.
Sen. Joe Leiberman will be bringing the support of the country’s largest Pro-Israel PAC to the district to host a fundraiser on behalf of Weprin, attempting to shore up the Democrat’s standing with the Jewish community. The fundraiser will be held on August 31st, just two weeks before the election.