Robert L. "Bob" Turner (born May 2, 1941) is the United States Representative for New York's 9th congressional district which straddles parts of Brooklyn and Queens. He is a member of the Republican Party, holding his first public office. He was elected in September 2011 to complete the term of Democrat Anthony Weiner who had resigned amid a sexting scandal. A conservative, Turner has been described as the polar opposite of his predecessor, Weiner.
Previously, Turner was a media executive noted for his success in the television talk show segment of the industry. Six years after retiring from his business career, he entered politics to run against Weiner in the November 2010 election—losing, but garnering a significant 39 percent of the vote in the largely Democratic district.
Less than one year later, he defeated Democratic politician David Weprin 52-47 in the special election battle for Weiner's seat—becoming the first Republican to represent the district in nearly a century.
Early life and education
Turner grew in the Woodhaven and Richmond Hill neighborhoods of Queens, the eldest of three sons. His father was a cab driver, and a machinist; his mother a homemaker. Turner has described his parents as “New Deal Democrats who began splitting their tickets in the post-Kennedy years.” He attended St. Thomas The Apostle School in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill High School. He served in the Army at the rank of SP5, then graduated from St.
John's University in Hillcrest with a B.A. in history, after having worked his way through college. As a college student, he took part in the politically conservative activist group, Young Americans for Freedom.
Turner worked in the advertising and television industries for more than four decades. In 1984, he co-founded and ran Orbis Communications, a distributor of advertiser funded programming. He then headed the North American operations of Pearson LLC, where he exported the television talk show format to Europe, launching six shows in two years.
In addition, Turner reorganized and redirected the successful program Baywatch and launched new versions of the game shows Family Feud and To Tell the Truth.
Turner's most notable position was President of Multimedia Entertainment, a division of media conglomerate Multimedia, Inc., from 1991 to 1995. In his first year, he created and launched Rush Limbaugh's television talk show and The Jerry Springer Show. He also oversaw the production of The Phil Donahue Show and The Sally Jesse Raphael Show. Jerry Springer recalled that he and Turner had a friendly, businesslike relationship though their politics differed. Turner shelved several Springer show episodes as inappropriate but kept the show on the air despite heavy criticism and calls from Congress to regulate the show's raunchy content.
Other positions held by Turner include President of LBS Communications, a division of Grey Advertising, where he created a daytime "barter network" for the distribution and syndication of the series Family and Fame. He also served as Director of Advertising for Bristol-Myers Company, where he began the production of the Leonard Nimoy series, In Search of..., and was the first General Manager of CBS Cable.
During his active business career, Turner founded and served as the president of the Association of Syndicated Television Advertisers and was on the boards of the National Association of Television Programming Executives and the Advertising Research Council.
He also served on the television committee of the Association of National Advertisers.
While in his early 60s, Turner retired from full-time business activities but continued to manage his own investments including a hotel business in Orlando, Florida. He sat on several Boards of Directors as well including Readspeak Inc., Liberty Imaging Inc., the Achilles Track Club and Family Focus Adoption Services.
U.S. House of Representatives
After winning the Republican and Conservative Party of New York's nominations, Turner ran for Congress in November 2010 against Anthony Weiner in New York's ninth congressional district, a Democratic leaning district with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI) of D+5, which was one of the few districts in the nation in which Barack Obama performed one point worse than John Kerry in 2004 and 12 points worse than Al Gore in 2000. Turner lost to Weiner in a 60-40 split.
Turner ran for Weiner's vacant seat in the special election held on September 13, 2011 — beating his Democratic opponent, David Weprin, by a margin of more than 3,500 votes. One of Turner's campaign themes was fiscal recovery via cuts in federal spending. The New York Times remarked that Turner's economic plan to reduce taxes without reducing benefits for current Medicare and Social Security recipients was unrealistic. "That would take a magician, not a businessman", said the Times. One month before the election, Turner admitted that an op-ed he written for the National Review calling for a one third reduction in federal spending and "an end to government dependencies" was "blatant pandering" to "a particular audience".
He argued that the federal budget needed to be cut by as much as a third, and that capital gains taxes should be eliminated, and corporate and individual income taxes reduced, even for the wealthiest two percent. However, he also opposed Republican plans to privatize Medicare and Social Security and turn Medicaid into a block-grant program, reportedly at the request of former New York mayor Ed Koch, who supported him. In endorsing Turner's opponent,
Turner ran ads showing images of the World Trade Center in flames and sent mailers attacking Weprin for supporting construction of Park51, a planned Islamic community center located near the World Trade Center site, claiming that Weprin wanted to commemorate the attack by building a mosque on Ground Zero. Turner also contended that Weprin would merely tow the Democratic party line if elected and emphasized that Weprin had said the national debt was 4 trillion when the correct number was 14 trillion.
The district has a large Jewish constituency (up to one quarter of registered voters are Jewish) and Turner, who is a Roman Catholic, "aggressively courted observant Jewish voters", according to The New York Times. Turner painted Weprin as a puppet of President Obama who would not stand up for Israel. A number of local Jewish leaders including Orthodox rabbis endorsed Turner over Weprin, who is an Orthodox Jew. Other Turner endorsements came from The Jewish Voice, The New York Post, the New York Daily News, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Republican U.S. Representative Michael Grimm. Turner was also supported by New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and former New York Mayor Ed Koch, both Democrats and Jews. Koch, a key Turner supporter, supported Turner in order to send a message to President Obama to change what Koch describes as "hostile position on the State of Israel". Crain's New York Business opined that if Turner should win, the New York Republican Party would be more likely to push for a "super Jewish" congressional district, extending the influence of Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that if Turner was elected, it could change the President's agenda in the Middle East.
Turner began the campaign with a disadvantage in fundraising because the national and state Republican parties had been burnt out from previous special elections losses in New York state. Turner turned down Tea Party support and offers to help during his special election campaign. Regardless, Turner rose in the polls from an underdog to an eight-point advantage just days before the election. The Democratic Party contributed heavily to Weprin in the last weeks of the race, as Turner's odds of winning increased.
During his 2011 campaign, Turner stated he came out of retirement to run for Congress "to fix what's broken and go home. End subsidies. End government dependencies. Dramatically cut the budget by 30 or 35 percent. Slash capital-gains taxes down to zero. Cut taxes across the board. The rest of America’s economic healing will happen naturally as a consequence", he said. He signed the Grover Norquist / Americans for Tax Reform pledge of "no new taxes under any circumstances" in 2010, nd ran on a platform favoring minimal regulation of business. However, in 2011 he chose not to sign "the pledge," citing the need to compromise in the critical area of reducing the debt. In his 2011 campaign he cited illegal immigration as a major cause of U.S. unemployment. To resolve the U.S. debt, he proposed eliminating the U.S Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency and reducing the size of the Department of Education.
In campaign appearances, Turner expressed his approval of certain aspects of Republican Congressman Ryan's budget plan but was critical of provisions that would privatize Social Security. However, Turner did suggest that the minimum age for Social Security eligibility should be increased for those who are under 55. He said he favored repeal of the 2010 health care reform act, but opposed Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare with a voucher system.
On social issues, Turner emphasized his pro-life, anti same-sex marriage positions, and voiced his support for the teaching of intelligent design in the public schools.
During his campaign, Turner also declared strong support of Israel and the U.S.-Israeli relationship, criticized President Obama's reference to the use of the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations with the Palestinians, and stated that the U.S. should suspend its aid to the Palestinians until payments to convicted terrorists and rocket attacks on Israel ceased. Turner also stated his opposition to the building of the Park51 Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site and suggested federal intervention to stop its construction.
Turner was sworn in to Congress on September 15, 2011. Upon being chosen to serve on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, he stated, "I intend to forward my beliefs that it is in our national interest to defend our Middle East ally, Israel, and I will oppose further attempts by the U.N. to recognize a Palestinian state."
Turner is being mentored by Homeland Security Chair, Peter T. King (R-NY) in his transition to his new job. He has met with his former rival, Anthony Weiner, to discuss open constituent files and issues facing the district, including noise pollution and eroding beaches. He had a cordial and businesslike meeting with Weiner, though the two men have been described as polar opposites.
Within weeks of taking office, Turner was attacked by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for his no new tax pledge, and painted by the DCC as representing wealthy individuals and corporations rather than the average district voter. Turner expressed support for hydrofracking in upstate New York, and would allow states to opt out of No Child Left Behind. Remarking on the tenth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, Turner said he would "leave our military commitment in Afghanistan up to the generals in the field," adding that, "If they believe the sacrifice of our soldiers continues to be necessary to prevent attacks on U.S. soil, then we have no choice but to let them finish the task."
In November 2011, an anti-free trade protester affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement shouted during Turner's ceremonial swearing-in and was knocked to the floor and dragged out the door by a former Turner campaign worker. Turner then criticized the OWS demonstrators as socialist and praised America's capitalist system as a "beacon to the world".
Turner has been married to Peggy Turner, a foster care nurse for special needs children, for 48 years. The couple has five adult children and 13 grandchildren and resides in Rockaway Point, Queens. In August 2011, Turner revealed for the first time the couple's 1994 adoption of C.J. Holmstrom, an orphan whose parents had died from AIDS. C.J.'s mother, Rosemary Holmstrom, had been on daytime talk shows in the 1980s discussing the death of her husband from AIDS, and her own HIV positive status. The Turners helped her and C.J. from that time on, ultimately adopting C.J after her death.
December 27th, 2011