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Weprin, Turner launch races for Weiner seat

The race to replace disgraced former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner is shaping up after the heads of the Queens and Brooklyn Democratic parties selected state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) as their candidate while their counterparts on the Republican side tapped retired Rockaway businessman Bob Turner, who lost to Weiner in 2010.

Both candidates made their cases Monday, with Weprin speaking to a breakfast at the Queens Chamber of Commerce while Turner held a news conference outside the Forest Hills Long Island Rail Road stop to launch his campaign.

Voters will go to the polls Sept. 13, Primary Day, to choose whether Weprin or Turner will succeed Weiner in Washington.

Weprin dubbed himself a “congressman-in-training” when he walked into the chamber breakfast and said he was against privatizing Social Security and cutting Medicare.

The Democratic candidate said he believed the election would hinge on job creation as well as the debt ceiling and touted his 20 years of experience in public finance, state banking regulation and the City Council’s Finance Committee to argue he is the best candidate to replace Weiner, who resigned amid a sexting scandal.

“I would hope I would be able to contribute to the debate and the Democratic agenda in the House,” Weprin told the crowd.

Weprin said scandal aside, Weiner “did right by his constituents” and promised to follow in Weiner’s footsteps by setting up congressional offices in Brooklyn and Queens.

“He did a very, very good constituent job,” Weprin said of Weiner.

Weprin said he believes he can use the position of congressman as a bully pulpit to speak for children and seniors.

He also touched on what chamber members wanted to hear about: small businesses.

“There’s no question the small business community is getting squeezed and we have to make sure the small businesses don’t fall through the cracks.”

Turner opened his campaign in Forest Hills and said his 40 years of business experience is needed in Washington.

He said Republicans have a “road map” of how to “bring some practicality and business sense to Washington.”

“Ronald Reagan spelled it out,” he said. “You stimulate business, free up capital, you don’t crush them with regulation.”

Turner was the unanimous choice of the heads of the Brooklyn and Queens GOP, although Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa flirted with nominating attorney Juan Reyes before deciding to back Turner, who captured 40 percent of the vote in a failed bid against Weiner in 2010. Turner had a long career as a TV executive.

“We are very pleased to have such a capable and experienced candidate to win this seat,” Ragusa said in a statement. “Bob ran strongly against the incumbent last time, and we know he has the momentum now going into this special election to win and send a strong message to Washington that the people need real change for the American people.”

The Working Families Party endorsed Weprin in the race while Turner is being backed by the Conservative Party.

Reyes, a Forest Hills resident and former Giuliani administration official, said he bowed out of contention in favor of party unity.

“I am very happy to support Bob Turner for Congress and will gladly help him win this race for the Republican Party,” Reyes said in a statement. “He is a highly qualified candidate with strong business experience who ran a good race last year. I look forward to seeing him serve the people of our district in Congress.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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