Rather than try and find a tried-and-true Republican to run on its line in this year’s election for district attorney, they turned to lifelong Democrat Joe Murray as their candidate to challenge Borough President Melinda Katz, who narrowly defeated upstart public defender Tiffany Caban by just a handful of votes after a lengthy recount.
Murray takes over the nomination from attorney Daniel Kogan, who was a registered Republican but was so underwhelming as a candidate he couldn’t excite anyone from the Republican base. Months ago he admitted he probably wouldn’t even run an active campaign, so at best he was a name on the ballot.
But even before Murray took the line, GOP leadership openly admitted that they were hoping former judge Greg Lasak would accept the nomination. Lasak came in third in the primary. Yes, the Democratic primary.
It “was his to turn down,” county chair Joann Ariola was quoted as saying in published reports.
Supposedly it was a tough decision for the Queens County Republican Party to give the nod to Murray, or so they say. We suspect they were just happy to have someone interested in taking their line.
It appears that the Queens County GOP has given up trying to run candidates from their own party, instead turning to conservative Democrats to represent their party.
Such was the case with Councilman Robert Holden, who initially lost a primary challenge to Elizabeth Crowley.
Rather than find a registered Republican to challenge Crowley, the Queens GOP had Holden run on their line, and he did eventually win in the general election. And on his first day in the City Council, he began caucusing with the Democrats.
This is particularly sad for that Queens district; before Crowley won office the Republicans had a tight hold on that seat for decades. The fact the party couldn’t find a worthy Republican to run in that district is unbelievable.
If that’s the case, the party leadership has done a terrible job of energizing its base and keeping it active. Outside of Staten Island, Queens probably has the most pockets of Republican-leaning voters, and the party has done nothing to excite them.
At this point, the Queens County Republican Party is basically the Working Families Party, a political party without any real candidates of its own who give their line to whoever seeks it.
But at least the Working Families Party has a platform and select candidates who best represents it, the Republican Party appears to just be looking for also-ran Democrats to run on their line.
And whether you are a registered Democrat or Republican, having general elections that mean something is a good thing for a democracy. Instead, the Queens County GOP is giving us the Democratic Primary Part Two.
But as for Murray! The former cop and defense attorney says the firing of Daniel Pantaleo was the last straw for him, and convinced him to get in to the race. He supports some criminal justice reforms, but opposes ending cash bail and closing Rikers Island, and would continue to prosecute sex work and low-level offenses like marijuana possession.
The Republican Party hopes those conservative views will appeal to moderate voters perhaps worried about the sweeping reforms that became a hallmark of the Democratic battle for district attorney, which saw Caban forcing other candidates increasingly to the left.
The Queens County GOP hopes the strategy will help them get another Democrat elected to office. Their track record of that is pretty good so far!