In the early going, the New York vote to fill the congressional seat vacated by Anthony Weiner looked like an early and essential test of the president’s strength among his base.

It appears he failed.

A little-known Republican businessman from Queens, channeling voter discontent with President Obama into an upset, won election to Congress on Tuesday from the heavily Democratic district in New York City last represented by Anthony D. Weiner.

The Republican, Bob Turner, a retired cable television executive, defeated Assemblyman David I. Weprin, the scion of a prominent Democratic family in Queens, in a nationally watched special election.

With 73 percent of the precincts counted early Wednesday, Mr. Turner was leading Mr. Weprin by 53 percent to 47 percent, according to The Associated Press.

As Mr. Turner declared that the election had been a referendum on the president, his buoyant supporters, gathered at a restaurant in Howard Beach, Queens, shouted “Yes, we can,” appropriating the galvanizing phrase of Mr. Obama’s campaign in 2008. Mr. Turner predicted that voters elsewhere would also rebuke Mr. Obama in the elections next year.

“”We have lit one candle today,” he said. “It’s going to be a bonfire pretty soon.”

Even before the polls closed, the unexpectedly tight race stirred anxiety among Democrats already worried about elections next year for president, the House and the Senate. Mr. Turner framed the special election as an opportunity for voters to demonstrate their frustration with Mr. Obama and the country’s direction.

The Turner campaign had eagerly courted disenchanted Democrats, and outside polling places around the district on Tuesday, multiple longtime Democrats confessed that despite concern about Mr. Turner’s eagerness to slash federal spending, they chose him hoping that his election would get lawmakers’ attention.

“I am a registered Democrat, I have always been a registered Democrat, I come from a family of Democrats — and I hate to say this, I voted Republican,” said Linda Goldberg, 61, after casting her ballot at a library in Queens. “I need to send a message to the president that he’s not doing a very good job. Our economy is horrible. People are scared.”

Mr. Turner will become the first Republican since 1920 elected to represent the Ninth Congressional District…

Wow. Coming during Mr. Obama’s campaign tour on his jobs plan, which was already looking desperate and hollow, this has to be a serious early indicator of things to come.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....