Anthony Weiner’s 2012 Problem: A Younger, GOP Version of Himself

 

ulrich333 e1307536621398 Anthony Weiners 2012 Problem: A Younger, GOP Version of Himself

City Councilman Eric Ulrich. (photo credit: william alatriste / new york city council)

Anthony Weiner’s Republican opponents would seem to have one obvious advantage should they choose to challenge the embattled congressman in 2012: their to-date failure to distribute compromising photos of themselves (or parts of themselves) over the Internet.

“Let me think,” joked Bob Turner, the 70-year-old businessman who ran against Mr. Weiner last year, when asked about any lewd photos he might possess or have sent to people who were, say, definitively not his wife. “I’m pretty sure I don’t.”

“No, of course not,” said 26-year-old Eric Ulrich, a city councilman from Queens and another rumored challenger, when asked if he had engaged in any inappropriate online banter.

Before a photo of his crotch rocketed around the country and was splattered across various tabloid covers, Mr. Weiner was expected to be a leading mayoral candidate in 2013, and his re-election to Congress was widely considered a given.

Now, facing an ethics investigation of his lewd messages to as many as six young women and a wall of public silence from his congressional colleagues, Mr. Weiner must first survive 2012.

“Look, my constituents have to make the determination,” Mr. Weiner said on Monday. “If they believe that this is something that means that they don’t want to vote for me, I’m going to work very hard to win back their trust and to try to persuade them that this is a personal failing of mine; that I’ve worked very hard for my constituents for a very long time, very long hours; and that nothing about this should reflect in any way on my official duties or on my oath of office.”

Last November, Mr. Turner captured more than 40 percent of the vote in the Queens and Brooklyn district, a relatively high number for an unknown challenger trying to unseat an established incumbent. And pundits suggest Mr. Weiner could face an even tougher challenge from someone who’s won and run before—like, say, Mr. Ulrich.

“He’s won in a big chunk of the district,” said Jerry Skurnik, a political consultant known for his number-crunching. According to Mr. Skurnik, 50,000 of the 56,000 voters in Mr. Ulrich’s City Council district also reside in Mr. Weiner’s congressional district, and, among the rumored challengers, Mr. Skurnik called Mr. Ulrich the “strongest.”

On Monday, just before Mr. Weiner’s tearful, 27-minute long press conference in midtown, Mr. Ulrich stepped outside of his Ozone Park office to discuss the possibility.

“I don’t want to talk political stuff in my office,” said Mr. Ulrich. “We don’t need any conflict of interest rulings against me.”
Mr. Ulrich said he had been fielding questions “from both sides of the aisle” about the possibility of challenging for the seat, which would pit Mr. Weiner against something like a right-leaning version of his former self.

The similarities between the two are so striking as to be comical.

In 1992, at the tender age of 27, Mr. Weiner won a six-way Democratic primary and four-way general election to become the youngest person ever to serve on New York’s City Council.

In 2009, the ambitious Mr. Ulrich won a five-way special election to become the new youngest councilman, at age 24.

Both enjoy a spirited debate.

The ability to strike at the moral nerve center of a debate had been a hallmark of Mr. Weiner, who became a YouTube sensation when he dressed down fellow New York congressman Peter King on the floor of the House and parlayed his sharp tongue into minor celebrity status on cable news shows.

Prior to attending seminary, Mr. Ulrich said he trained as a member of his school’s debate team—a fact even his aides were not aware of. Neither were his opponents, who, during the 2009 special election, found themselves eviscerated by the neophyte, to the delight of a crowded room of voters.

“Eric, you are a Republican party official,” one of his opponents, Mike Riccato, said, while reading off of a small notepad.

“But what experience do you have to lead this community in these fiscally challenging times?”

“It’s manna from heaven. Thank you, Mike,” Mr. Ulrich replied, buttoning his coat. “My experience has been in civics, in communities, has been with people, my whole life.”

With the microphone in his right hand, he continued.

“I wasn’t always a politician,” he said, enthusiastically waving his left hand. “And by the way, being a politician is not a bad thing. I was studying for the priesthood at one time. So I’ll have you know! My dear friend! That there is a lot more to being a city councilman than being a businessman.”

He spoke above the crowd, which was already applauding.

“Politics is not a business,” said Mr. Ulrich. Pointing to the crowd. “These are not your employees!”

Mr. Ulrich went on, leaving his opponents stunned, and the audience electrified.

(About the priesthood: Mr. Ulrich studied for the seminary, but ultimately decided not to continue, and, after winning his Council seat, he got married.)

Both men enjoy the lure of social media, occasionally to their peril.

Mr. Weiner’s transgressions are, by now, well-documented; yesterday he admitted that he “panicked” when he mistakenly posted a private photo of his underpants to his Twitter feed, and deleted all his photos, before lying to cover it up in a series of interviews over several days.

Mr. Ulrich deleted one of his own posts last week, when he said he was responding to a barrage of vulgar messages from bike zealots.

After a woman was hit by a van in his district, a young female constituent tweeted that Mr. Ulrich should support bike lanes to help “calm” traffic.

Mr. Ulrich said he was offended the advocates would use this tragic accident to advance their agenda, and he told them as much, using the hashtag “#getalife.” When The Observer and another outlet picked up the story, Mr. Ulrich released a statement, backing up his position.

“First of all, I can say with certitude that my Twitter account, to my knowledge, has not been hacked,” Mr. Ulrich said, tauntingly echoing the awkward phrasing in Mr. Weiner’s initial nondenial.

“With that said,” Mr. Ulrich’s statement continued, “I cannot believe that anyone would use a tragic incident like the one that occurred on Friday to advance their own agenda. To suggest that a bike lane would have prevented this from happening is simply absurd.”

Both Mr. Weiner and Mr. Ulrich plan to keep using social media. In Mr. Weiner’s case, admittedly, “not in the same way.”

As for Mr. Ulrich, it’s a work in progress.

“If the voters of the Ninth District want to make sure the seat is held by a politician who sends inappropriate tweets to young, female constituents, Eric Ulrich is worth a look,” said Aaron Pasternak, a transit advocate and bike lane booster.

Mr. Ulrich said he had heard about polling already being conducted in the district, and that he had heard his name was among those being mentioned. (A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee said the organization was not polling in the district. Mr. Turner said he was also considering whether to run against Mr. Weiner.)
For now, the councilman said he was focused on fighting the ongoing budget battle in the City Council.

“I rebuffed a lot of the talk because I don’t want to put a target on my back,” he told The Observer on Monday.

A call to his cell phone Tuesday morning went straight to voice mail. Minutes later, he sent a text message.

“If the seat opens up, I might consider running,” he wrote. “Right now, the people need someone who can restore their trust and faith in government.”

apaybarah@observer.com

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    fwiw Turner won less than 40%

    1. Anonymous says:

      thanks. 

      there are, indeed, a bunch of different numbers out thereThe New York Post recently put it at 41 percent — crossing the significant 40 percent threshold. On Election night in 2010, NY1 also reported Turner at 41 percent. (Yes, yes yes, those Election Night numbers are based off of numbers read off ballot machines the night of the vote, and are NOT official.)And figuring out the percentage isn’t as simple as taking the number of votes a candidate got and dividing it by the total number of people who showed up at the poll. You want to subtract the number of people who, for whatever reason, did not vote in the race. Once you get THAT total, then you do your regular math.So, I’ll double check my math in the morning and update / correct if need by.But the main point of invoking the numbers in the story was to show that Turner pulled in enough votes to call into question Weiner’s perceived invincibility in the district. Turner didn’t have much money, was up against a well-funded, well-known incumbent, and got scant coverage in the papers.If he ran again — the he being Turner, but, if you’d like, Weiner too — much of 2010 math would need to be taken with a grain of salt.Things have changed quite a bit since those days.

    2. Anonymous says:

      thanks. 

      there are, indeed, a bunch of different numbers out thereThe New York Post recently put it at 41 percent — crossing the significant 40 percent threshold. On Election night in 2010, NY1 also reported Turner at 41 percent. (Yes, yes yes, those Election Night numbers are based off of numbers read off ballot machines the night of the vote, and are NOT official.)And figuring out the percentage isn’t as simple as taking the number of votes a candidate got and dividing it by the total number of people who showed up at the poll. You want to subtract the number of people who, for whatever reason, did not vote in the race. Once you get THAT total, then you do your regular math.So, I’ll double check my math in the morning and update / correct if need by.But the main point of invoking the numbers in the story was to show that Turner pulled in enough votes to call into question Weiner’s perceived invincibility in the district. Turner didn’t have much money, was up against a well-funded, well-known incumbent, and got scant coverage in the papers.If he ran again — the he being Turner, but, if you’d like, Weiner too — much of 2010 math would need to be taken with a grain of salt.Things have changed quite a bit since those days.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Wow, what a response!

        I think it comes from the discrepancy between the numbers reported on election day and the final result once everything came in. I couldn’t understand until a little bit after I posted my original comment why everyone (urrrrvrrryone) was reporting the numbers off haha

        Obviously it’s not TERRIBLY important whether some dude named Bob Turner got 41% or 39%  in NY-9 in 2010 ;)

  2. Sdffd8 says:

    We need to get rid of a Congressional district in the city. Let it be this one.

    1. Anonymous says:

      A) because of Weiner’s recent behavior?
      B) because of Weiner’s congressional behavior?
      C) because of Weiner’s policies?
      D) because of Weiner’s symbolic value as a Liberal / Cable News icon?
      E) because the district was gerrymandered to begin with? 

    2. Anonymous says:

      A) because of Weiner’s recent behavior?
      B) because of Weiner’s congressional behavior?
      C) because of Weiner’s policies?
      D) because of Weiner’s symbolic value as a Liberal / Cable News icon?
      E) because the district was gerrymandered to begin with? 

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lets hope not the last thing we need is more Anthony Weiner’s aka the “WEINER HACKER” 

    Before there was the “Oracle at Delphi” there was Count Vampire J. Machiavelli

    VJ Machiavelli
    The Legislative Budget is Too Damn High

  4. Anonymous says:

    A couple of things:

    I guess only in NYC is winning by 19% points seen as being vulnerable. This article seems to asume both that Weiner would not face a primary opponent and that the district will still exist.

    As to Azi’s questions to Sdffd8:

    Outside of Rangel’s and Grimm’s districts, all others in the City look like Rorschach tests. Weiner doesn’t seem to ever have been particularly popular with this fellow dems – which is obviously important when the delegation starts to think about who will get the ax. The census had Queens as barely growing, so it makes sense that Queens would be ground zero for losing a district. It makes sense for the party to take all those conservative dems and Republicans and dilute them amongst the 6 neighboring congressional districts.

  5. maybe too similar says:

    Arrogance is another similaritiy Ulrich and Weiner share. Ulrich, the former seminarian, is also known for some bad behavior.

  6. Yowza123 says:

    Ulrich is having an affair with Councilwoman Liz Crowley.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Seriously? Is this the kind of name-calling and rumor-pedaling we’re doing here? 

      I know we all just got another jolt of ‘anything can be true’ lessons in light of Anthony Weiner, but we only got there because there was proof to back up an accusation.And you, so far, have provided none. If you have proof, send it along. If this was meant as a tip, there are more discrete ways to point reporters to hard-to-find stories. (Email me!)
      But so far, what you’ve written is probably slanderous. And, unless some lawyers tell me otherwise, I’m going to leave it up here so everyone can see how ridiculous your contribution to our conversation has been.

      Yowza123, the next time you post here, it should start with the words, “I’m sorry.” 

      Otherwise, it will show how little you’ve learned from the Anthony Weiner scandal.

  7. [...] Anthony Weiner’s 2012 Problem: A Younger, GOP Version of Himself [...]

  8. [...] Ulrich is currently the youngest person ever elected to the City Council–a distinction once held by Weiner–and the two have a number of rather striking similarities. [...]

  9. AliceL says:

    Human Weiner – isn’t she Hillary’s girlfriend?

  10. [...] got nearly 40 percent of the vote against Anthony Weiner last year said he’ll back Republican Eric Ulrich if the Councilman decides to [...]