Janison: Turner looks past primary to Gillibrand

A file photo of Bob Turner.

A file photo of Bob Turner. (Credit: Getty Images)

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

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All over New York, the thinking goes that unseating Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will pose the trickiest of tasks for the GOP. All three candidates competing in the June 26 Republican primary for a chance to face her in November know the edge she holds in both fundraising and name recognition.

One of the three, Rep. Bob Turner, of Rockaway Point, looked past the primary fight Thursday during a 20-minute interview between campaign meetings on Long Island and set out a broad scenario for defeating the three-year Democratic incumbent, now completing the term to which Hillary Rodham Clinton was first elected in 2006.

"My job in these next seven months is to connect her voting record and her positions" with "failing policies" of the Obama administration, Turner said. He denied it is "too presumptive" to channel most of his efforts into a general-election strategy.

"We have to make sure we have a clever, smartly run campaign, and any money we spend, I want to see directed towards the November goal," Turner, 70, said. In a state President Barack Obama is widely expected to win, Turner talks of a need to get voters -- "even those who like the president" -- to move across the ballot to his name.

He speaks of showing people a disconnect between Obama's high New York popularity, "for reasons that I don't fully understand," and White House policies -- especially on energy and job-creation -- that he says win much less voter approval "when you strip the slogans away."

First, Turner would need to get past Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, who like himself came late in life from business to elected office, as well as lawyer-activist Wendy Long, who has Conservative Party backing.

The volume is building. Maragos Thursday announced radio ads touting him as the "clear alternative" to Gillibrand, while Long criticized Obama on taxes..

Turner said he has "no ideological or party issues" with either primary rival, but, "I don't think they can carry this thing as well as I can."

Elected last September, Turner can still sound like someone watching government from outside. After winning a special election to replace disgraced Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, he saw his district dissolved in reapportionment.

An accidental congressman? "In some ways," said Turner, an advertising and television executive in his last career. "This is not my life's ambition, and I think I got into this to try and fix what I see as a wrong." He laughed. "There's enough to keep me busy for a very long time." Discussing financial regulation, he pulled pages of typed notes from his jacket pocket, and expressed frustration that "the trick for a politician is to try to get these things into sound bites and slogans."

Turner's being in the House GOP majority gives him a voting record for Democrats to attack. Just Thursday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee slammed what it called House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's "proposal to give more tax cuts to the richest people in the United States," taunting Turner over whether he'd vote for it..

Turner said the state could benefit by putting a Republican senator next to Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, now in his third term. But, Turner said with a smile, "I'm not sure people are going to jump out of their chairs to vote for that particular reason."