Could the GOP turn NY-09 into a real fight?

With Anthony Weiner beating a hasty retreat from Congress after his bizarre online antics — and more — got exposed a few weeks ago, Republicans think they may have a shot at winning NY-09 for the first time in 89 years.  Thanks to the accelerated pace of special elections in New York, the two parties had to hand-pick their nominees for the contest.  Republicans chose Bob Turner, who ran against Weiner in 2010:

Underdog Republican candidate Bob Turner said yesterday he’s ready to shock the nation by winning randy ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner Queens-Brooklyn congressional seat — claiming voters are fed up with President Obama’s failed economic policies and disgusted with the local Democratic Party’s corrupt “machine politics.”

“This special election on Sept. 13 will be viewed as a bellwether for Obama,” Turner told The Post. “Economic policy is set in the wrong direction. Unemployment is up. Deficit spending has not been addressed,” said Turner, 70, a retired media executive.

Turner ran against Weiner last year and captured a surprising 40% of the vote.

Weiner outspent him five-to-one. Turner, a retired media executive, put up half of the $400,000 he raised out of his own pocket.

Although 2010 was a bad year for Democrats, Weiner’s incumbency and his high media profile helped him beat Turner, even if it wasn’t exactly a cruise.  New York’s 9th CD has a Cook index of D+5, but Republicans have had little luck in this district since the days of Warren Harding.  However, the district began to trend back to the center in national elections over the last decade or so; in 2000, Al Gore beat George Bush 67/30 in NY-09, while in 2008, Barack Obama only bested John McCain by 11 points, 55/44, just four more points than the national average.

Democrats have hand-selected David Weprin to go against Turner, with whom he has something in common — Weprin hasn’t ever won a competitive election.  In fact, unlike Turner, Weprin has never even won a primary.  The New York Daily News is less than impressed with the Democratic selection, blasting machine politics in NY-09 for Weprin’s nomination:

Weprin’s father, Saul Weprin, was a product of the Queens machine who rose to be Assembly speaker. When he died in 1994, the party anointed David’s brother Mark in a special election.

In 2001, David ran for City Council. He faced opposition in a primary, but the machine made his only real rival a judge. David won in a walk.

In 2009, David entered the only competitive election of his career, running for city controller. He finished fourth out of four in the primary.

A campaign highlight: Asked by this page what the controller’s budget was, he said: “What office? The controller’s office? Ummm. Good question. The controller’s office budget. Ummm . . .”

Since David’s Council seat was then open and he was jobless, brother Mark came to the rescue by running for Council. Mark won, creating an Assembly vacancy, which the party boss filled, you guessed it, by making David the candidate in a special election.

The NYDN says it will take a “GOP miracle” to keep Weprin from getting to Congress with this track record, thanks to the tilt of the district. That’s probably still true.  However, strange things happen in special elections, and Turner showed some strength against an entrenched incumbent last year.  Given the embarrassment of Weiner and the weak candidate hand-picked by Democratic party bosses, there could be a surprise brewing in NY-09.