By Steve Mosco
U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) hopes to work with Democrats on the other side of the aisle if he is elected to the U.S. Senate in September, he told TimesLedger Newspapers in a sit-down interview last week.
Turner, the representative of the 9th Congressional District, was a relatively unknown businessman before winning a special election for the seat last year after U.S. Anthony Weiner resigned in the midst of a sexting scandal.
But after redistricting eliminated the seat, Turner shifted his focus on challenging U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). He must first, however, get through next week’s Republican primary.
Turner will face off against conservative judicial activist Wendy Long and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos.
The congressman said he decided to run for the Senate seat because he believes he is the only Republican candidate capable of defeating Gillibrand in an election this fall. He called the current senator’s voting record “interesting” and said she simply does what the hard left asks of her.
“She is on the wrong side of all the issues,” he said. “I will have no problem identifying her voting record and her failed policies in this campaign.”
Turner said if elected, he hopes to put an end to progress-blocking partisanship within the Senate and focus on the overriding concerns of his constituents: jobs and the economy.
“The partisanship in the Senate is fairly severe,” he said. “It’s a sad state of affairs because he have a lot of common problems.”
Turner referred to one of those common problems as the “debt bomb.”
“At this rate, in five to seven years this will be an unsustainable debt on our current economy,” he said. “Historically, nations have solved debt problems through hyperinflation. But hyperinflation tends to destroy social programs and that is something that I’m afraid of.”
Turner believes many upstate concerns are in line with those held by his city constituents.
“The continuing threat is a sense of fear and uncertainty in what is going to happen,” he said. “People know that our social programs are unsustainable, it is not something we can ignore. Social Security and Medicaid have to be fixed, but we have got to do it in a responsible way.”
According to Turner, Social Security’s retirement requirements were put into place before people starting living past 70. Now that people are living longer, he believes the retirement age for receiving benefits must be moved up.
He cautioned that raising taxes on businesses to pay for Social Security will only serve to hurt the economy by prohibiting businesses from hiring employees and expanding their operations.
“The other side of the aisle has a lot of ideas on how to fix the problem through raising taxes on businesses, but that has a cost in jobs and growth,” he said. “We have got to get the economy moving and growing, so we need to look to cut business taxes and stimulate business growth. Success begets success.”
Turner’s policies on business clearly stem from his pre-political background as a media executive. He said this experience gave him a far different mindset than his opponents’ on how to approach the issues facing the state.
“If you have been in the capital market raising capital and raising money through loans and hiring people, you have a sense of how business works and should work,” he said. “Most businesspeople don’t like politics or politicians. In this climate, there is a new crop of Congress members with 40 or so people like me — businessmen of some type who have never been in politics before. We tend not to be as ideological as some.”
In terms of international affairs, Turner said Israel must continue to be an important ally of the United States, especially in a scenario where Iran is capable of producing nuclear weapons.
“The president said we are not seeking a policy of containment but of prevention,” he said. “If we’re not preventing, we have to move. If not diplomatic or economical, then we have to move to a tactical position. Or we must change our policy to containment.”
Turner said he does not believe the United Nations to be a viable instrument for dealing with a nuclear Iran. The congressman said the U.N. is not tough enough and he cannot point to a single thing the U.N. has done that the country could not have done better.
“America has been a shining light for democracy in the world. We don’t need to be vetted by the 150 corrupt, stumbling nations of the U.N.,” he said. “Let us vet them. Let us stick to our own principles and simply do what is right. We have a diplomatic apparatus in place with our State Department that would be more effective than getting bogged down with the U.N.”
Overall, Turner believes New York needs a senator less likely to bend to either side of the extreme positions on foreign affairs as well as on domestic issues such as the economy.
“I am mission-oriented and have a clear idea of what has to be done in the next two years,” he said. “The adults have to be put back in charge.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.