The top-lines from Tuesday’s special election in New York 9th District are obvious: Republican Bob Turner won a big upset victory in the contest for former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s seat, Democrat David Weprin lost and President Barack Obama took it on the chin. But the stunning GOP win had a cast of other characters – lawmakers, consultants, and third-party groups – whose political fortunes will also rise and fall as a result of the race’s outcome.
Here’s POLITICO’s look at the winners and losers from the closely-watched race.
Paul Ryan - Three months ago, Democrats successfully seized on the House Budget Committee chairman’s controversial plan to rewrite Medicare in an upstate New York special election. But that message didn’t work this time for Weprin, who hammered Turner over the plan and who raced into senior centers during the final days of the race to brand the Republican as scary. Icing on the cake for Ryan: The approach didn’t work for Democrats in Nevada either, where Republican Mark Amodei won by a landslide in Tuesday’s other special election.
Rudy Giuliani – Turner had no more high-profile endorser than the former New York City mayor, who won the district both times he ran for mayor and provided Turner, a relative political newcomer, with establishment credibility. Giuliani’s team—mayoral campaign veterans E. O’Brien Murray and Bill O’Reilly—also helped to lead the Turner effort.
Republican Jewish Coalition – It’s not every day that Jewish Republicans can hawk an electoral success. But this time they can. No, a Jewish Republican didn’t get elected, but the RJC rallied around Turner’s bid and boosted his efforts to frame the race as a referendum on President Barack Obama’s policies on Israel in a district where Jews comprise nearly one-third of the population. The RJC sent mailers to 30,000 Jewish households, all designed to highlight the notion of Obama’s frosty relationship with Israel.
New York Republican Party – Going into the race, the state GOP didn’t have a lot to crow about. New York Republicans had lost three consecutive special congressional elections, and last year fielded hapless tea party candidate Carl Paladino in the gubernatorial race. Ed Cox, the New York Republican Party chairman, can now point to a win.
Pete King – On Capitol Hill, Turner had a loyal supporter in King, an outspoken and camera-friendly GOP congressman who took up his campaign’s banner and helped him fundraise. On Tuesday evening, King was in attendance at Turner’s Queens post-election party for a victory lap.
National Organization for Marriage – The socially conservative organization helped to sow unrest with Weprin and Orthodox Jewish Democrats over his support for same-sex marriage. The organization dropped $75,000 on mailers highlighting Weprin’s position and dispatched Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein to record an anti-Weprin robocall. The National Organization for Women wasn’t the only conservative group involved in the race – the Family Research Council also hammered Weprin in a New York City district that is more socially conservative than its neighboring seats.
Ed Koch – The voluble former Democratic mayor proved that even after all these years, he knows how to stay relevant. It was Koch who helped lead Turner’s Israel offensive, declaring that a vote for the Republican was a way to send Obama a message over his Mideast policies.
Magellan Strategies – The little-known Republican firm was the first outfit to project that Turner was in a position to win, releasing an automated poll one week ago showing the Republican leading Weprin by four percent. Even the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling recognized its significance, Tweeting after the Turner win: “Props to Magellan Strategies on NY-9. Never easy to be the first pollster out with something no one’s really expecting.”
Working Families Party – Yes, the labor-backed Working Families Party, famed for its get-out-the-vote operation, got behind Weprin and provided him with a helping hand in voter turnout efforts. But, perhaps sensing that the race was a loser, the party didn’t help out quite as aggressively as they could have – refusing to aggressively publicize their support for Weprin and instead choosing to focus their attention on a state Assembly race in Brooklyn.
Joe Crowley – The buck stops with Rep. Crowley, the chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, who hand-picked Weprin. Despite myriad organizational advantages, his old-school machine failed to put its candidate over the top Tuesday even though, just a day earlier, Crowley promised that it would. The congressman may have thought picking an establishment-oriented candidate like Weprin was a safe pick — a pol who was unlikely to challenge a New York incumbent after the upcoming round of redistricting redraws the city’s maps. But Weprin’s campaign missteps became a serious problem and at his election night party, Crowley was nowhere to be seen.
Downstate Democrats – With New York losing two seats in reapportionment, Weiner’s vacant seat was a perfect target for elimination – a way for Democrats tasked with redrawing the state’s congressional map to protect long-serving incumbents. But with the seat now in GOP hands, the ripple effect is that a downstate Democratic incumbent could now be axed.
New York Assembly – Message to both parties: Stop nominating lawmakers from New York’s lower legislative chamber. They just can’t win special elections. Assembly members have now lost in each of the last four House special elections in the state—just read the polls to see how poorly the Assembly is regarded by voters.
Andrew Cuomo – The popular governor is known for his cautiousness—in May’s upstate New York special election, Cuomo didn’t get behind now-Rep. Kathy Hochul until the last minute when the picture was clearer. But he gave Weprin, an establishment party figure, a forceful seal of approval and went so far as to cut a robo-call for the assemblyman.
The Parkside Group – Weprin ran a lousy campaign, and it was the Parkside Group, a New York City consulting firm, that was at the helm. There was much grumbling about the way the Weprin campaign was run: witness DCCC chairman Steve Israel’s election night statements thanking his two unsuccessful special election candidates — Nevada’s Kate Marshall was thanked “for her tremendous effort and first-rate campaign” while Weprin was simply thanked “for his tremendous effort.” Some of Weprin’s decisions were just odd – like when his campaign decided to send a costumed wizard to a Turner event to mock him. Or the time Weprin decided to duck a debate and said it was because of Hurricane Irene, which had already passed.