NY1 first reported the endorsement last week.
Even before he announced he would back Turner, Koch had been outspoken about the message a Turner victory might send to President Obama on Israel. (Turner’s opponent, David Weprin, is an Orthodox Jew who has called Obama’s policies toward Israel “outrageous.”)
While Koch has long been a hawk on Israel and defense — he endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 — the second plank of Koch’s endorsement was premised on the classically-Democratic notion of preserving entitlements, with Turner as a possible counterweight to the plans currently being circulated by Republicans.
“My involvement is directed at protecting the people of the United States from changes in these entitlement programs which the Republican leadership wants to privatize, or turn into block grants in the case of Medicaid,” said Koch in a statement sent out by Turner’s campaign. “I have every confidence that a Congressman Turner will serve as a staunch ally to Israel and as a firm voice in his Party for preserving our precious entitlement programs.”
After a few weeks of not saying whether he supported Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Turner said last week that he would have voted against the measure. Today, Turner solidified that position and used the Koch endorsement to cast himself as an outsider, in contrast with Weprin’s standing as a solid party loyalist.
“My opponent has always towed the Party line in office; there is no reason to believe he will do anything different in Washington,” Turner said in a statement. “I will stand up for what I believe regardless of what party leaders tell me, and today that means defending Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid against privatization and ill-conceived cuts.”
Koch has a history of backing Republicans; most recently he supported Dan Donovan in last year’s race for attorney general.
UPDATE: Koch sent out his full remarks to his email list this afternoon.
I am here this morning to suggest that the contested race in the 9th congressional district be turned into a referendum that will allow the voters of this district, the largest Jewish district in the country, to register a protest against the positions of President Obama and the Republican leadership on a number of key issues.
President Obama, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have failed the American public in several ways. Two issues come readily to mind.
One is jobs. Not a single law that would provide jobs in our country has been adopted. We are now suffering from a 9.2 percent unemployment rate. Both parties have failed miserably to address this vitally important issue.
The second issue is President Obama’s violation of the War Powers Act. The President has continued hostilities against Libya, even though Congress has not provided authority for him to continue past the 90 days allowed, a time limit that has already expired. No serious effort has been made by Congress to hold him accountable, e.g., shutting off funds for the continuation of the war or impeachment proceedings. Imagine what a Congress would have done had George W. Bush engaged in a similar violation of the War Powers Act.
However, instead of offering a larger group of contested issues of disagreement directed at both parties, I decided it would be more sensible if the 9th C.D. constituency had a referendum on the matters that I believe those constituents talk about and think about every day and basically agree on.
They involve President Obama’s open hostility to the State of Israel. His hostility should concerns Jews, Christians, and other supporters of Israel. Many believe the President has conveyed by his actions and demands on that state that he is willing to throw it under the bus and end the special relationship which has existed between the U.S. and Israel beginning with Harry Truman and continuing through the administration of George W. Bush. While President Obama has made demands upon Israel that affect its security, no comparable demand, indeed no demands, have been made upon the Palestinian Authority before entering the peace talks.
The Republican leadership, which now controls the House of Representatives, has made perfectly clear its desire to privatize Social Security. That was the policy of George W. Bush and continues today. The Chairman of the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives, Republican Paul Ryan, has proposed privatizing Medicare and turning Medicaid into a block grant. The Republicans want to end these three programs as entitlements. Most Democratic and Republican voters in the U.S. support continuing those vital programs as entitlements.
Bob Turner, the Republican candidate in this district, called to tell me that he agreed with my views on the four issues raised by me – Israel, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid – and would like to wage a campaign in this district that would send a message to both parties.
I have been asked if David Weprin, the Democratic candidate, could do the same. He is a major supporter of Israel and highly critical of President Obama’s hostile actions to that state. He undoubtedly opposes the gutting of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
My answer is no. David Weprin could not be an effective messenger. His election would be viewed by President Obama as simply that of another Democrat elected to office in what is one of the largest Jewish constituencies in the nation and acceptive of the President, notwithstanding criticism of his positions.
On the other hand, the election of Bob Turner in a normally safe Democratic district running against President Obama’s position on Israel and against his own party’s positions on the three entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would send a message to his own party leadership as well as to President Obama.
I believe Bob Turner’s election could have the impact that the election of Scott Brown had when he won the Senate seat in Massachusetts – a seat that was held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, the bluest senator from the bluest state in the union.
Does anyone doubt Brown’s election impacted upon President Obama? The President turned to what he believes to be the center of the country’s thinking economically. Indeed, I think he turned too much, giving up long-held principles of the Democratic Party.
Many in politics think my endorsement of Bob Turner is a quixotic effort – tilting at windmills. I do not. I have hope and faith that the people of the 9th C.D. will rise to the occasion and opportunity presented to them. We will soon see. September 13 is almost upon us.