A Republican known for pulling of one of the biggest upsets in recent local elections is predicting another surprise for New York on Tuesday.
Former Rep. Bob Turner is making the call that Republican Mazi Pilip will upset Democrat Tom Suozzi in the special election for the seat of disgraced serial liar George Santos.
“I do think Mazi will win,” Turner, who later served as Queens Republican Party chairman, told The Post. “My sense is Mazi will pull this through.”
“All the issues people are paying attention to favor Mazi,” Turner said.
“Mazi is a good candidate and has run a pretty good campaign,” he added. “People like her. She’s feisty
Turner knows all about upsets, after he shocked the political world in a 2011 special election by winning a congressional seat left vacant when ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned in a sexting scandal.
Then a largely unknown retired cable TV executive, Turner ran for the then-heavily Democratic southern Brooklyn-Queens congressional seat in which Jewish residents made up about 40% of the vote.
His Democratic opponent, state Assemblyman David Weprin, an orthodox Jew, had name recognition and was expected to waltz into office. His father, the late Saul Weprin, previously served as Assembly speaker.
But an extraordinary thing happened.
The race quickly turned into a referendum on then-President Barack Obama, who faced criticism for undermining Israeli officials for peace talks with Palestinian leadership. The economy was also shaky following the Great Recession and Obama faced criticism over changes to Medicare.
Former three-term Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat and staunch supporter of Israel, was so upset with Obama undermining the Jewish state that he crossed party lines and endorsed Turner to “send a message” to the president.
Taking Koch’s cue, Turner’s campaign nationalized the race by urging voters to send Obama a message by voting for him instead of Weprin.
Voters listened — and elected Turner in the Sept. 13, 2011 race.
Turner and others who ran or backed the campaign see parallels with Pilip seeking to link Suozzi to President Biden’s lax border policy that has fueled a migrant crisis in New York, as well as against post-pandemic crime and inflation.
The former congressman credited Suozzi with trying to distance himself from Biden but in the end, doesn’t think it will work.
“Suozzi is stuck with the Democratic Party label in that district,” Turner said.
Turner’s campaign manager, O’Brien “OB” Murray, also said the Pilip-Suozzi contest is reminiscent of the Turner-Weprin race with both Republican candidates making it largely a referendum on the unpopular White House occupant.
“Our pitch to voters was to send a message to President Obama about Israel. This time it’s about sending President Biden a message about the border by voting for Mazi,” Murray said.
One big difference, Murray said, is that Pilip faces a more formidable and savvy foe on the ballot in Suozzi, a former county executive and three-term congressman.
Read more of The Post’s coverage on the special election to replace George Santos:
- Mazi Pilip, Tom Suozzi stump on final day of early voting in race to replace George Santos in Congress
- Republican known for political upset predicts another shocker in Suozzi-Pilip race for George Santos’ seat
- Mazi Pilip warns voters not to buy Tom Suozzi’s moderate claims: ‘This is part of his game’
- Mazi Pilip scores police union backing ahead of tight House special election to replace George Santos
- Mazi Pilip, Tom Suozzi clash over abortion, border during first debate in race for George Santos’ House seat
Bill O’Reilly, Turner’s campaign press secretary in that race, also smells an upset.
“Suozzi has been around a long time. He’s the embodiment of the career politician,” O’Reilly said.
Weprin declined to comment.
Nassau County Democratic leader Jay Jacobs acknowledged “the national environment right now is tougher” for Democrats, he said the Suozzi brand and record will prevail over Pilip’s inexperience.
“We’ll see on Wednesday,” Jacobs said.
The Suozzi campaign said there’s no comparison to the Turner-Weprin race.
“Everyone saw during the debate last Thursday that Mazi Pilip is untested, unprepared and has absolutely no ideas and admitted to ‘no plan’ to address the border crisis,” said Suozzi senior campaign adviser Kim Devlin.
“Voting for Pilip means keeping the border open, more migrants coming across the border, no federal money or resources coming to NY to address the migrant crisis and more criminals having access to AR-15’s. She is clueless how to fix immigration and will be as useless in making things better as Santos was.”
He also said it’s the Republicans right now who have to emerge from the stench of the Santos scandal, which is different than the Turner-Weprin race.
Turner, now 82, still resides in Breezy Point. He served one term and didn’t run for re-election after his district was eliminated during reapportionment. He ran for US Senate instead and lost in the GOP primary.
He had one validator Pilp doesn’t who made a difference in his smashing victory — Ed Koch, who died in 2013.
“I couldn’t win without Koch,” Turner said.