Talk-show host Jerry Springer grew up in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens in New York City, the same neighborhood where his former boss, Rep. Bob Turner, set up his first district office. Turner, a former cable network executive, was once responsible for producing The Jerry Springer Show.
To talk-show host Jerry Springer, Rep. Bob Turner's victory hits a little too close to home.
Turner is best known as the Republican who won a New York City Congressional special election last week. But he's also the former cable television executive who brought to life Springer's infamous talk show, known for its outrageous story lines and obscenity.
Springer has personal and professional respect for Turner, but the two men sit on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, and the host said he "almost feels sick" about the recent election outcome.
The 9th district is "in his soul," Springer told Roll Call in a recent interview. He grew up in Kew Gardens — the same neighborhood in Queens where Turner set up his first district office. Springer spends most of his time these days in Chicago, Connecticut or Sarasota, Fla., but he makes an annual pilgrimage back to his old apartment.
"The Jerry Springer Show" is still on the air after more than 20 years, but Springer also hosts a dating show on the Game Show Network and a live "The Price is Right" show at Bally's Las Vegas, and he is preparing to host another Las Vegas show featuring the top performers from this season of "America's Got Talent."
Springer was in the 9th district Saturday evening for his 50th reunion at Forest Hills High School, just days after Turner took over Democrat Anthony Weiner's former seat.
"It appeared to be a perfect storm for Republicans," said Springer, who cited as key factors tremendous voter dissatisfaction, Assemblyman David Weprin's weakness as a candidate and the Democrat's problems in the Orthodox Jewish community because of President Barack Obama's stance on Israel.
While Weprin was on the defensive on Israel, Turner could have potentially taken heat for producing such a controversial show. But it never happened.
"For a guy who likes the Metropolitan Opera and museums," the Republican told the New York Times before the election, "Jerry is not exactly my proudest moment, you know, as you can imagine."
But Springer is no stranger to the campaign trail and understands the politics of the situation.
"He had it bad? I had to be there hosting the thing," Springer joked about Turner's comments. "I enjoyed doing the show, but I never said it had any redeeming social value," added Springer, who said he never thought seriously about getting involved in the special election because he figured Weprin was carrying enough baggage.
Springer's disappointment with the special election doesn't reflect a personal problem with Turner.
Before and after the election, the media personality talked admirably about his former boss. He most recently described Turner as a "good man of good character" to Roll Call. But Springer is a Democrat — a former elected official who is still very active within the party as a fundraiser.
He ran for Congress in 1970 in Ohio and got 45 percent of the vote in a loss to GOP incumbent Donald Clancy. A year later, he was elected to the Cincinnati City Council, but he resigned in 1974 after admitting to hiring a prostitute and paying with a check.
But Springer won back his seat on the city council and was elected by the council to serve as mayor for one year in 1977. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1980, and he seriously considered running for the Senate more than two decades later. He ultimately declined a bid.
Between television and his Las Vegas shows, Springer still makes plenty of time for politics.
He was recently in Cincinnati, helping local Democrats gather enough signatures to challenge an effort by Ohio Republicans to put more constraints on early and absentee voting. Voting rights has always been a passionate issue for Springer. More than 30 years ago, he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18.
Back in the 9th district, Springer didn't have any concerns that Turner will fall to the same fate as Weiner, but the political difference remains.
"He'll do his job, but from my point of view, he'll vote the wrong way," Springer said.