12:47 pm Sep. 8, 2011
David Weprin, the Democratic candidate vying to replace Rep. Anthony Weiner in the Ninth Congressional District, was never expected to sweep voters off their feet, which is why all the reports about Democrats suddenly panicking over the tightness of the race are maybe a tad sensationalistic. What, after all, did they expect?
Rep. Joe Crowley, who in his capacity as Queens County Democratic leader was instrumental in the selection of Weprin to run in the Sept. 13 special election, would never admit it, but the fact that Weprin is such an unassuming guy is precisely what recommended him for the job.
Essentially, Crowley wanted a place-holder—someone who could win the race and occupy the seat until next year's round of redistricting, at which point that person would dutifully submit to the elimination of the district, and his seat, without contemplating anything as troublesome as a challenge to any of the incumbent Democrats in neighboring districts. As it happens, the House members who stand to benefit the most from an orderly obliteration of the Ninth are probably Gary Ackerman and ... Joe Crowley.
But was this tactic, picking a completely unthreatening Democrat to defend the seat, too cute?
"Panic" notwithstanding, there's reason to believe that Weprin may yet be dragged across the finish line, if only because of the advantages he and the Democrats enjoy in money, organizational muscle and voter registration. (Crowley, who in addition to being Queens party chair is the finance chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has authored an urgent appeal for money to spend in defense of the Weiner seat.)
But what if Weprin doesn't make it? What if Joe Crowley turns out to be the instrument of an upset win by Republican businessman Bob Turner, and of a national embarrassment for the Democratic Party and Barack Obama?
"The expectation and hope is that David Weprin wins the race," said Michael Tobman, a Democratic political consultant. "But if he doesn't, then Joe Crowley, as county Democratic leader, will have selected a candidate for a seat that was likely to be written out of existence to benefit Crowley's own congressional seat, but lost the race. There will be, fair or not, talk of self-dealing and yeah, it would not reflect well on him."
Particularly when the Republicans use Turner's victory as a talking point.
"David Weprin, let's face it, is the ultimate party clubhouse guy, and if he loses the race in a New York City district, the Republicans will use that as a bellwether, or will frame it that way, as far as which way the country is leaning," said Michael Oliva, also a political consultant. "Nationally, that's where the pain will be."
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