Tough timing for Rep. Anthony Weiner: He’s surging in the polls but might miss tonight’s final debate because of a vote in Washington on Hurricane Katrina relief. The congressman, whom Marist and Quinnipiac surveys now have in second place and into a likely runoff with frontrunner Fernando Ferrer, is heading down to Washington and his campaign warns he “may arrive late to the debate tonight, or miss it entirely.”
It’s not the first drama for Weiner on a debate day: He went to the ER for kidney stones the morning of the first televised debate. Nor would this be the first time Weiner’s D.C. duties have forced him to miss campaign events up here.
But why the flight south this time? Let’s face it—the “pro-suffering” lobby is not going to win this one. The Katrina relief bill will pass by something like 678-0 (and there are only 435 people in Congress!), and Weiner’s vote won’t be decisive. But Weiner spokesman Anson Kaye argues Katrina’s too big a measure to skip. “He doesn’t want to miss any of the debates but this is one of the foremost crises as far as anybody can remember,” says Kaye.
Of course, missing the vote might provide fodder for Weiner’s opponents. But skipping the debate could hurt, too. The obvious beneficiary would be Gifford Miller, who polls show is Weiner’s closest rival for the key second place slot. Miller is definitely charging hard, or at least harder than Ferrer: The Council speaker has eight events scheduled before tonight’s debate, while the former Bronx Beep has but three. Meanwhile, in the background, Miller’s campaign faced a 10 a.m. deadline to respond to the Campaign Finance Board on questions about the expenditures it has claimed as exempt from the spending cap.
Weiner was in town long enough to accept the endorsement of the 22,000-member Uniformed Firefighters Association, which is locked in a bitter fight with the Bloomberg administration for a new contract. The UFA’s last major endorsement was
President Bush, whom union head Steve Cassidy embraced during the RNC.