Democrat David Weprin holds a scant, six-point lead over Republican Bob Turner in a Sept. 13 special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., according to a new Siena Research Institute poll released Wednesday.
Weprin leads Turner among likely voters, 48 percent to 42 percent. Nine percent are undecided.
Turner, a businessman who lost to Weiner in the 2010 general election in the district, has a six-point lead in the borough of Brooklyn, where roughly 30 percent of the district's voters reside. But Weprin, a state assemblyman, holds a ten-point lead in Queens, home to seven-in-ten voters. Weprin's father, Saul, represented Queens in the Assembly for more than 30 years, rising to the position of speaker before his passing in 1994.
Voters' opinions are surprisingly hardened with a month to go until the election. Just 15 percent of likely voters say they may change their minds between now and Election Day. That's split roughly evenly between Weprin's (17 percent) and Turner's (13 percent) supporters.
Turner has found an important and unlikely backer in the form of former New York Mayor Ed Koch. Koch was known for asking New Yorkers "How am I doing?" during his three terms as the city's Democratic mayor. More than 20 years after he left Gracie Mansion, the voters of the Ninth Congressional District have an overwhelmingly positive answer for Koch: A remarkable 69 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of him, while just 23 percent have an unfavorable opinion.
Koch credited Turner's support for Israel as one of the key reasons for his endorsement, and the candidate has been hammering Weprin -- and President Obama -- on what he views as their tepid support for the Jewish state. The poll, however, shows Jewish voters are siding heavily with Weprin, who leads, 56 percent to 35 percent. Catholic voters, on the other hand, line up largely behind Turner, 55 percent to 37 percent.
Amazingly, Koch's sky-high favorability rating is equal to that of wildly popular Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But current Mayor Michael Bloomberg is underwater (44 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable), as is House Speaker John Boehner (32 percent favorable, 42 percent unfavorable).
Obama is also struggling among likely voters in the special election, underscoring the stiff headwinds that face the White House across the country at this point. Just 45 percent of likely special election voters in the overwhelmingly Democratic district have a favorable opinion of the president, while a 52-percent majority has an unfavorable opinion.
Perhaps most striking is how likely voters view the current direction of the country. Only 15 percent of likely voters think the country is on the right track, while 78 percent think it is headed in the wrong direction.
By most measures, New York's 9th District is an unlikely electoral battleground between the two parties -- even in the volatile realm of special elections. According to data from the New York State Board of Elections, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Queens- and Brooklyn-based district, 57 percent to 18 percent. The Siena sample is even more Democratic (61 percent Democrats, 17 percent Republicans, 19 percent independents). But while the district has a heavy Democratic registration edge, it gave Obama just 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Weiner beat Turner in 2010 by a wider, 22-point margin.
Weiner resigned in June after it was disclosed that he had engaged in improper electronic communications with women other than his wife. Now, more than two-thirds of likely special election voters have an unfavorable opinion of Weiner, while just 27 percent retain a favorable impression of the former congressman and one-time mayoral hopeful.
Whoever does win the special election may not be in Congress for long, however. The district is a prime target for elimination when the state legislature tackles redistricting next year.
The Siena poll was conducted Aug. 3-8, surveying 501 likely special-election voters. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent.