The race is a close one. Republicans have framed this as a referendum on Obama, and although the Democratic candidate Welpin would ordinarily be highly favored to win, polls have shown him falling behind.
Israel is a particular issue in this election, since many of the district’s voters are Jews, and Orthodox Jews at that:
Orthodox Jews, who constitute a substantial chunk of the district’s electorate, seem particularly resistant to supporting Weprin, who is an observant Jew, against Turner, who is not Jewish but who never misses an opportunity to reiterate his support for Israel and raise doubts about Obama’s support for that country.
Whether the president’s political problems in the district stem primarily from the economy or the perception among observant Jews that he isn’t suitably supportive of Israel is a matter for some debate, but it really doesn’t matter to Weprin right now.
The Orthodox Jews of District 9 are not typical of the makeup of the Jewish vote around the country, of course, where they are more of a minority within a minority. Orthodox Jews tend to be more conservative politically in general than Conservative (the religious designation, that is), Reform, or secular Jews.
ADDENDUM: Here’s District 9:
The district went for Obama in 2008 by 11%. Granted, this is a special election, but it’s the first time a Republican has held the seat since 1923.
Even Weprin sought to distance himself from Obama, telling the Jewish Weekly that he would “probably” back him for reelection.
But Dov Hikind, a Democratic colleague of Weprin’s in the New York assembly who nonetheless endorsed Turner, suggested that the deciding factor in the race was the economy.
“People want to go back to work,” Hikind said. “They’re sick and tired of speeches.”