This isn’t just about Brooklyn and Queens anymore. Maybe this little slice of New York City has come to represent something larger than itself. Maybe the Ninth District in this off-year election is slated to symbolize the general disillusionment and disappointment of the country at large in the present government.
Turner took a few moments to speak to us at Yated Ne’eman in an exclusive interview. We found him to be practical in matters of government and legislation but also idealistic when it came to the issues that our community cares about. As we spoke, it became increasingly clear that he shares many of our values and our opinions. The following is an excerpt of what he said:
Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your background and where you grew up?
A: I’m a product of the Ninth Congressional District. I was raised in Woodhaven and raised my own family in Richmond Hill. For the past twenty years, I’ve lived in the Rockaways. In fact, we were ordered to evacuate like everyone else, during the recent hurricane.
I grew up the oldest of three sons. My father worked for most of his life as a machinist at a defense plant on Long Island. In later years, he drove a cab.
I’m the proud father of five children, all grown up now and thirteen wonderful grandchildren.
Q: What’s your work background and how does it affect your politics?
A: I spent many years in media. For the first twenty years of my career, I worked for large companies like Bristol Myers, as Director of Advertising. Then, for the last twenty years, I was President and CEO of four different television production and distribution companies.
My background will definitely prove to be helpful in my political career. I’ve started companies and I’ve been in capital markets. I know how to borrow money and how to invest other people’s money in new businesses. I have been actively involved in the business world in every aspect of sales and marketing and I know how it works.
Q: Why go into politics at this stage of the game?
A: Our system is in terrible shape. We’re leaderless. I’m motivated by my love of this country and my love for my thirteen grandchildren. I’m outraged at the mess we’re going to be leaving for them and their generation to deal with.
My political career is actually all of eighteen months old. I ran a year ago in this District against Anthony Weiner for the very same reason. Back then, we did okay. On Election night, we got 41 percent of the vote. That’s not bad, considering it’s a heavily Democratic district, and that most of my campaigners were grass roots volunteers, not seasoned professionals.
After Anthony Weiner resigned, I was asked if I would run again. I said, ‘Yes, I will!’ and I’m doing it. My wife Peggy is definitely supportive. In fact, she’s more than supportive. She told me, “Get out there and do it!” So here I am.
Q: What are the big issues that people care about during this campaign?
A: The overall concern is the state of the economy and unemployment. Young people can’t find jobs, people are underemployed, and everyone else is worried about job security. There’s tremendous uncertainty out there.
This district is largely made up of homeowners, hardworking people who own one and two family houses. These are two income households, and they have to deal with high property taxes, high income taxes, and state and city taxes. They’re getting slammed everywhere they go.
There’s a growing discontent that our leaders are not really paying attention. So people are receptive to change. In reality, the constituents of this district are largely Democratic, on a scale of three and a half to one. But people are disillusioned with the Democratic party on a local level as well as on a national level. And there’s a growing concern about the leadership of the Obama administration as well as for the State of Israel vs. the Obama Administration.
Q: Have you ever visited Israel?
A: Yes, I have. It was right after Ariel Sharon’s famous walk, and things were a little hot then but it was still a wonderful experience. I really got a different perspective. I realized that it’s just a small country with seven hostile countries around the corner. The truth is, you have to see it. Your perception of things changes when you stand on the Galillee and see for yourself how it’s surrounded by hostile neighbors. That’s when you realize what the Jewish State is up against and how precarious it all is.
Q: How do you feel about the Palestinians wanting to declare statehood?
A: The Palestinians can declare whatever they want. A recognition, even by the General Assembly, can be harmful to our interests in that part of the world. It’s a propaganda ploy, but the United States should do whatever it can to stop it. The irony is that all of these countries who are willing to recognize it are receiving American aid. I find it really unacceptable that we would allow them to vote against our interests.
At the same time, we are also providing aid to the Palestinians. And we have learned that militants in Israeli jail cells are being subsidized by the Palestinian Authority, who are being subsidized by us. That’s just plain crazy.
Q: But the American Congress does seem to be more sympathetic to Israel, doesn’t it?
A: The Congress is, but the Obama Administration, for whatever reasons, is not terribly friendly in a diplomatic way. In general, I understand that our military operations and intelligence operations are very good. But the diplomacy of the State Department is woefully inadequate.
Honestly, I don’t understand the mindset of this Administration. One of the reasons that Ed Koch and other prominent Democrats are saying ‘Vote for Bob Turner’ is to send a message to the Obama Administration that he cannot take the Jewish vote for granted. A continuation on this path will help him lose the next election.
Q: So is the Administration paying attention to this race?
A: The whole country is paying attention to this race. It’s become something far bigger than Mr. Weprin and me.
Q: What are your views on ObamaCare?
A: With all government programs you have unintended consequences. At this time, ObamaCare has cut five hundred billion dollars out of Medicare and transferred it, hurting the middle class which has paid for ObamaCare. We have seen our insurance premiums going up twenty or thirty percent. Business restrictions are affecting hiring and compounding the problem negatively. I think this is a mistake. I would also like to see changes, but not the same changes. I have a whole different perspective and a more practical approach.
Q: So how would you solve the economic problems that we’re facing?
A: Business should have more leeway and less regulation. Many of the restrictions on insurance and banking, stock and bond trading and lending will impact New York City negatively. A lot of jobs are leaving the city and going elsewhere. We have gotten the brunt of the unintended consequences of these regulations. The economy is really the number one issue today.
Q: You mentioned that Ed Koch is supporting your candidacy. Are you in touch with him?
A: Oh yes, I speak to him every day. He’s been to fundraisers and rallies and he’s been extremely helpful. He’s 87 years old, but he’s still politically active.
Q: Who else is supporting your candidacy?
A: Rudy Guillliani, Peter King, and Michael Grimm, to name a few. Both Congressmen King and Grimm have been very helpful in a number of ways.
Q: How are the people in the district responding to your candidacy?
A: People are very receptive and engaged and are ready to talk. I should point out that the experts expect there to be a low turnout, maybe twenty percent. That’s the history of special elections. But that also means that every vote is important and each vote really matters.
Q: With all this going on, how do you sleep at night?
A: Interestingly enough, I sleep like a baby. I’m working really hard, it’s true. But when you have the feeling that you’re doing the right thing, then you can sleep at night.