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When voters in Forest Hills go to the polls on November 2, they'll see something they haven't seen since 2004: a name on the Republican side of the ballot running for Congress. That name? Bob Turner, a conservative businessman who has spent most of his life living in the area.
Turner said that after spending an afternoon watching U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner on an episode of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, he became so outraged that he set out to make a donation to Weiner's opponent in the 2010 election. The only problem? Weiner had no opponent.
Eight months later, Turner has his face on a billboard over Queens Boulevard. He said that so far, it's been a challenge.
"It's an investment of your life. There's time, there's money, there's energy, but you're also putting a bit of yourself on the line," he said. "I figured my wife would be the good sense person and would talk me out of this but instead she took quite the opposite approach, and here I am."
Turner, speaking from the basement of his campaign office on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale, seemed confident but cautious. He's aware of what he's up against, both in terms of demographics and in finances; Weiner is outraising him more than 10-to-1, according to donor information at opensecrets.org. The bulk of his campaign has been self-financed so far. Turner admitted that if he hopes to win, he's going to have to capture every conservative vote in the district.
"I think we have motivated our base, which is about only 25 percent of the registered voters, and that is an absolutely essential point. We have to win the independents, which is a big part of this, and we have to turn the independent-minded Democrats who are not necessarily party loyal," he said. "We are within striking distance of winning this, and I think we can."
Optimism aside, it's an uphill climb. Turner is a meat-and-potatoes conservative in a part of the city where Republicans usually have to live vegetarian to stand a chance.
So far, he's hung his hat on opposition to the health care reform package, and on job creation. He said with a smile that he is a "lean government kinda guy."
With that in mind, Turner is dead serious about coming together with other Republicans in Congress to hamstring the early implementation of the health care bill, in the hopes of eventually dismantling it entirely. He called the entire health care reform package a "bad idea, top to bottom."
"You'll need a coalition of like-minded people… to defund some of the early provisions of the health care plan," Turner said. "I don't think there will be enough strength to put a veto-proof repeal on the table, but the Congress — that has the power to fund and defund — can have a very effective counterweight to the early stages."
On the economy, he has a laser-like focus on cutting business taxes and reigning in government spending. He believes that Washington has gotten too big and too intrusive, and that cutting spending and taxes would get the nation's economic heart beating again.
"We are a free enterprise system, contrary to where some would like to take us," he said. "I want to promote the free enterprise system, not harm it. I'm not talking laissez-faire rampant robber baron capitalism, we're talking some sanity in this approach, but we have to come down on the side of development."