NOM Doing Its Best To Pretend NY-9 Was About Marriage
September 19, 2011 3:53 pm ET by Carlos Maza
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has spent the past week gloating about the defeat of Democrat David Weprin in last Tuesday’s special election to replace Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th Congressional District.
According to NOM, Weprin’s loss to Republican Bob Turner was due to one issue and one issue alone: his recent vote for New York’s marriage equality law. As NOM’s President Brian Brown recently wrote in an email to supporters:
There’s only one reason David Weprin is in trouble in race for a very safe Democratic seat: His support for same-sex marriage.
Brown made a similar point in his post-election update:
David Weprin is not going to Congress for one reason: he listened to Andrew Cuomo, Michael Bloomberg, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and a few billionaires on Wall Street and went along with them to redefine marriage.
It makes sense that Brown would attempt to spin the election as a referendum on same-sex marriage. One of NOM’s major campaign talking points is that supporting gay marriage is career suicide for politicians. More importantly, NOM is desperate for some good news after this past June, when New York became most populous state to embrace marriage equality. So desperate, in fact, that it pumped over $50,000 into the race, producing robocalls and misleading mailers to attack Weprin for allegedly defying Jewish law.
Unfortunately for NOM, Brown’s narrative doesn’t match up with reality.
A poll conducted by the Siena Research Institute just days before the election asked respondents what the single most important factor in their voting decision would be. The overwhelming majority of respondents listed the candidate’s positions on Israel, the economy, and federal entitlement programs – along with the candidate’s party and endorsements – as the most important factors in their decision. Only 4 percent of respondents listed other issues.
This relative indifference towards same-sex marriage makes sense considering that, prior to this race, NY-9 consistently re-elected Anthony Weiner, a staunch and vocal proponent of marriage equality. Although NOM claimed that Weprin’s support for same-sex marriage angered Jewish voters, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch pointed out that New York’s Jewish community has a history of supporting pro-equality candidates:
“The Jews who are upset with David Weprin on the issue of gay marriage, they’re not upset on gay marriage,” Koch said. “They support candidates who are for gay marriage. Like [Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver – he’s their big candidate. And he’s for gay marriage. But they’re upset with Weprin. That’s what they tell me.”
Moreover, Turner made a special effort to avoid making same-sex marriage an issue in during his campaign against Weprin. Two weeks before the election, Turner made clear that he would not be targeting Weprin for his vote for New York’s marriage equality law:
"The gay marriage issue is closed, it's New York state law," Turner told the Daily News. "I don't see any reason to be using this as a campaign issue."
The day of the election, Turner’s spokesman, Bill O’Reilly, re-emphasized that the campaign’s focus was elsewhere:
“For Bob Turner, this race continues to be out the American economy, job-growth, and full support of U.S. allies like Israel,” O’Reilly said. “Anything else is a distraction from that focus.”
After the votes were tallied, O’Reilly concluded that Weprin’s support for same-sex marriage had little impact on the outcome of the election:
“We worked hard not to make it an issue in the race,” the spokesman, William O’Reilly, said. “David Weprin’s position on gay marriage probably won him as many votes as it lost him, so in the end it was likely a push.”
Don’t expect NOM to bother acknowledging any of the Turner campaign’s statements. It’s been too busy rounding up every news article that even loosely ties Weprin’s marriage position to the NY-9 election and citing them as evidence that same-sex marriage “was a major factor in Weprin’s defeat.” Many of the articles NOM cites do little more than mention that marriage issue or quote NOM’s Brown, but a few actually go on to contradict NOM’s talking point.
Take Patrick Brennan’s September 14 National Review Online column, for example. In italics is the sentence NOM chose to quote in its National Newsletter, followed by two passages that apparently didn’t fit into NOM’s messaging strategy:
The Turner campaign’s success in garnering Jewish votes was, no doubt, aided by the conservative instincts of the Russian and Orthodox communities, many of whose members were angered by Weprin’s New York Assembly vote to legalize same-sex marriage (though Turner refused to make this a campaign issue). But Israel is still definitely the issue that allowed Turner to make such impressive incursions into Democratic Jewish territory, and this will resonate nationally.
Orthodox Jews and Israel, gay marriage, the economy—all these things played a part, but at the end of the day it was about Mr. Obama. It is always about his leadership now. And that is a great quandary for Democrats, because they are not going to get rid of him, they are not going to primary him, because they don't want to break their party open.
NOM has every reason to cover its ears and pretend that the NY-9 special election has validated its anti-gay agenda. With national and state polls consistently showing majority support for marriage equality, any news that isn’t bad news is cause for celebration.