4:39 pm Aug. 4, 2011
This afternoon, Assemblyman David Weprin was standing in front of Queens Borough Hall with his wife, two daughters and a host of elected officials. He was the only man on the steps.
Since being handed the Democratic nomination in a special election for Anthony Weiner’s open congressional seat in Queens and Brooklyn, Weprin’s events have tended to target Jewish voters (Ed Koch’s plea for the district’s Jewish voters to support Weprin’s Republican opponent as means of rebuking the White House on Israel policy necessitated that) and senior citizens, whose entitlements are in the crosshairs of the G.O.P.-controlled House of Representatives.
But today’s event was all about women. Joining Weprin was a group of eleven female elected Democrats that included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Representative Carolyn Maloney. (At one point Quinn joked with Assemblywoman Grace Meng, whose dress matched the speaker’s lavender blazer, “You got the purple memo?”)
They each highlighted Weprin’s longstanding support for abortion rights and a 2009 bill for gender-pay equality, when he was on the City Council.
“I’ve lived in this area for 50 years,” said Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, whose district includes Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens, just west of the part of Queens where Weprin grew up and still lives. “And we had great congresspeople that represented this area. Starting off with Ben Rosenthal. And we went to Joe Addabbo Sr. Then we went to Gary Ackerman. We went to Chuck Schumer and we went to Anthony Weiner. And every one of them helped women. They believed in women.
“We need that now. The candidate running against Weprin, I’m not so sure he knows what Forest Hills and Rego Park really looks like. Or Kew Gardens. Because I have not seen him at all in our community.”
Weprin’s opponent in the general, Bob Turner, is a retired businessman who lives in Rockaway Point and grew up in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.
Turner is running on a platform of low taxes and unconditional support for Israel. (He has attacked Weprin, an orthodox Jew who has family in Israel, for being suspect on Israel mostly by virtue of being in the same party as Barack Obama.)
Turner has also criticized Weprin for being head of the Council’s finance committee during a slush-fund scandal that came to light in 2008.
Turner opposes abortion rights.
Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, a cousin of the congressman and Queens County Democratic boss Joe Crowley, who played a major role in picking Weprin, promised more support from females in her family.
“Among the many people who will be out there supporting David will not only be myself, but many of my sisters,” she said. “I have eight sisters that live in your congressional district, and even my mother. I will make sure that every generation of female Crowley that is registered to vote in the ninth congressional district and their families come out to vote, because not only for our females, but for our families, we need to support David Weprin.”
Maloney, whose a long-established feminism is a major part of her political persona, said, “He’s effective. He will be a very strong person in getting our fair share in federal dollars of the transportation, health care, and we should be carrying him on our backs to Washington because we know he will be such an effective leader.”
Councilmember Diana Reyna physically pulled Weprin from out behind her and guided him up to the podium as she spoke. (Shameless self-promotion has never been among Weprin’s vices.)
“I just want to make sure that David comes up here and understands why so many women from across the city and across the state are very willing and able and ready to say ‘yes’ to David Weprin,” she said.
After remaining in the background for much of the press conference, the candidate finally stepped up to say something.
“I’m a little speechless and a little overwhelmed because I really am very honored to have this distinguished crew of elected officials and women leaders endorsing my candidacy,” he said. “As a judge once told me in court, if you’re winning the case, you should sit down. But having said that, I will be a very strong advocate for the women of the ninth congressional district as well as the women of our city, state and country.”
A NY1 reporter asked Weprin after the event whether he had a message for Turner, whom she was planning to interview later in the day.
“I have to say to him that, keep in mind that 55 percent of the ninth congressional district is women,” he said. “And I will be the strongest advocate fighting for those women’s rights.”
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