NEW YORK — This is not the Sept. 13 special election that political insiders expected to be competitive.
When the election for the Queens- and Brooklyn-based district was set in July, Democrats and Republicans here and in Washington, D.C., anticipated that Democrat David Weprin, an Assemblyman from a storied Queens political family, would have no trouble winning in a district with a more than 3-1 Democratic voter registration advantage.
But with a vein of deep discontent and suspicion of the president pulsing through even Democratic areas, with both candidates making numerous unforced errors and with an exceedingly low turnout expected two days after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Weprin's race against retired businessman Bob Turner (R) appears to be close.
It certainly looks to be closer than the other special election scheduled for Tuesday some 2,700 miles away in a Nevada district that was evenly split in the 2008 presidential race.
Early one morning two weeks before an election that very few residents in New York's 9th district appear even vaguely aware of, Weprin stood outside a subway stop greeting people going to work. Standing near a GNC, a Pizza Hut and Wiggles Gentleman's Club in the Democratic part of the district, his pitch was more education than anything else.
"Good morning. How are you? David Weprin running for Anthony Weiner's seat," he said with a fake smile that looked genuine, sticking out his hand to bleary-eyed commuters.
Most greeted Weprin gamely and took his literature from volunteers. As soon as a group of people passed by, the smile dropped from his face.
Wearing a blue pinstriped suit, yellow tie and tassel loafers, he attempted to greet as many potential voters as possible. One passerby appeared confused. Weprin was direct: "Anthony Weiner was your Congressman and he resigned. Special election is in two weeks," he said, holding up two fingers to emphasize the salient point.
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A Siena Research Institute poll last month showed Weprin leading by only 6 points. Standing a few feet away from his candidate, Weprin campaign manager Jake Dilemani said the campaign's own poll results differed from the survey. "Our internal polling is a little stronger than Siena," he said. A recent poll done for the Turner campaign showed the race tied. Another poll funded by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had Weprin up by 8 points.
It's unclear which poll is accurate for a summertime special in an off-year. The race is unique because the cost-prohibitive New York media market limits voter contact to direct mail, robocalls and earned media. Both campaigns expect turnout of about 20 percent.
"It's a tough district [for turning out voters] and the timing," Dilemani paused mid-sentence for a moment. "Summer is rough."