Republicans get a voice in race for speaker

Who says the Republican Party is dead in New York City?
While it wasn’t exactly a red wave that swept over the city, the GOP did make surprising gains in the City Council.
The party was able to hold on to three seats – two on Staten Island and one in Queens – as well as pick up a vacant seat in south Brooklyn.
In Queens, Joann Ariola, who chairs the Queens County Republican Party, cruised to an easy victory over Felicia Singh, replacing the only Republican elected official left in the borough in Eric Ulrich, who is term-limited out of office at the end of the year.
In Brooklyn, Republican candidate Inna Vernikov also had an easy win in the race for the City Council seat left open by Chaim Deutsch, who resigned earlier this year when he was convicted of tax fraud.
The GOP also has a chance to pick up two more seats. In northeast Queens, Vickie Paladino holds a lead over Tony Avella, a surprising outcome given Avella’s name recognition as a former councilman and state senator representing the district. Paladino has never held elected office.
There are still absentee ballots being counted, but Paladino currently holds 49 percent of the vote to Avella’s 42 percent. Avella will need to make up over 1,600 votes to regain his former seat.
In another south Brooklyn district, Justin Brannan is trailing Republican challenger Brian Fox, although Brannan is confident that the absentee ballots will swing the race in his favor, posting on Twitter on Monday night that of the ballots returned, nearly 1,400 were from Democrats or registered Working Families Party voters to just 280 Republican ballots.
While the increase in Republican seats won’t necessarily result in major legislative changes – Democrats still far outnumber Republicans in the City Council – it could have an impact on who becomes the next speaker of the legislative body.
City Council members vote for speaker in a secretive process, but it’s a not-so-well-kept secret that it’s really the Democratic Party leaders in each borough who engage in intense political horse-trading to decide how their members will vote.
If a party leader thinks they have enough votes to get one of their own elected, which usually means striking a deal with a party leader from another borough to ensure one they have enough votes, they will go for it.
But if they think they will fall short, often they will strike a deal with the party leader from the borough with the frontrunner and deliver them the necessary votes to win.
Why would they do that, you might ask?
In exchange for the votes, the party leader makes sure their City Council members get appointed by the new speaker as the chairs of powerful committees, like Land Use and Finance, to ensure the borough has a strong voice in the decision-making process on important matter before the council.
In the past, Republicans were generally excluded from this backroom wrangling because the slim number of votes they held didn’t really factor in to the overall tally.
But with a total of 51 seats, if the GOP were able to hold six votes, candidates looking to fill the spot left by Corey Johnson would have to at least make some overtures to the Republicans.
Factor in that it’s not inconceivable that conservative Democrats like Councilman Kalman Yeger of Borough Park and Councilman Robert Holden of Middle Village – who while a registered Democrat actually won his seat running on the Republican line – could be persuaded to join the Republican bloc to influence the race, the GOP could conceivably have eight votes on their side.
In addition, the two major players in every speaker’s race are the Brooklyn and Queens Democratic parties, simply because those borough’s have the most City Council members, and therefore the most votes to package.
Given that those boroughs are the two that stand to lose seats to the GOP, that diminishes the influence those party leaders and their council members have in deciding the next speaker.
The current frontrunners for speaker include Councilman Francisco Moya of Queens, Keith Power from the Upper East Side and Carlina Rivera from the East Village.
Brannan was also considered a strong candidate, but the difficulties he is having just getting reelected is sure to hurt his candidacy. It’s doubtful that many will get behind him even if he does pull out a win.
So while the Republicans might not gain much in the way of legislative power even with their wins, they will likely play at least some role in shaping the leadership of the City Council, and hence the direction it will take over the next few years as a new mayor comes into office.

Petulant child

Dear Editor,
Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit in order to pay for the debt they incurred.
The GOP is the teenager who steals their parents’ credit card, runs up a huge bill and crashes the family car. As usual, Democrats (the parents) have to pay the bill and get the car towed out of the ditch.
Republicans had no problem voting in favor of permanent tax cuts for billionaires, but funding to expand dental, vision and hearing care for seniors? Provisions to fight climate change and curb prescription drug prices? Taking care of veterans? “That’s where they draw the line? What a complete disgrace.
Insanity and disaster are the Republican agenda. Senator Mitch McConnell would rather drive a car into a brick wall and set off an economic catastrophe than do his job, which is to pay for what he already spent during the Trump presidency.
Robert LaRosa, Sr.

Mandate solution

Dear Editor
Republicans aren’t really afraid of mask mandates, they’re just terrified of the hate-filled, conspiracy-loving base they have cultivated.
Masks aren’t just about medical science and preventing germs. Putting on a mask each day is a psychological prompt to remind you to change your behavior and ia conscious signal that you uphold the values of the community and have some sense of responsibility to everyone else.
But I think I’ve come up with the perfect solution for anyone who doesn’t want to wear a mask or get the COVID-19 vaccination. The Health Department should just issue permits, basically a license showing that you’ve filled out the proper paperwork permitting you to go maskless and refuse vaccination.
When this person arrives at the emergency room, doctors can check the anti-mask/vaccine database and give this person the specialized treatment they deserve: a coupon for bleach and gently guiding them to the “treatment room” marked exit.
Robert LaRosa, Sr.

Queens GOP contributing to its own demise

Curtis Sliwa is going to have a hard time overcoming the name recognition, momentum and overwhelming voter registration disadvantage in his race against Eric Adams for mayor.
You know what is going to make it even harder? If Republicans in Queens keep holding fundraisers for his opponent.
Councilman Eric Ulrich, the last Republican elected official in Queens, was one of the hosts of a recent fundraiser for Adams at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach that carried a $1,000 donation just to get in the door.
The first host listed for the event, Anthony Como, is a former Republican councilman who once held the seat occupied by Councilman Bob Holden.
The person who sent us the flyer said they were told the event would be “intimate and discrete.” We guess Republicans in Queens don’t want word getting out that they are actively raising money for the Democrat in the race.
We were also told by our source that the event raised well over $100,000 for the Adams campaign.
We guess the jockeying for influence with – and perhaps even a job in – the Adams administration has already begun, party loyalty be damned.
Speaking of Ulrich, a couple of weeks ago we wrote about the race for his seat in south Queens. Ulrich is the last Republican elected official in the borough, and if the seat goes to a Democrat, every elected post in Queens will be held by a Democrat.
While most voters in Queens, like the rest of the city, are registered Democrats, the borough has always had significant Republican strongholds in parts of the borough, such as northeast Queens, south Queens, and the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale.
The prospect of Queens being an all-blue borough would have been unimaginable even ten year ago. We wrote about that a couple of weeks back, and loyal reader Larry Penner shared his thoughts on the demise of the Queens GOP. Here’s what he wrote:

The ongoing fight for control of the Queens County Republican Party is like two hyenas fighting over the carcass of a dead animal, in this case the remnants of the once-relevant Queens Republican Party.
This is the latest chapter of a periodic civil war whose origins can be traced to the 1980s among the remaining handful of GOP party activists. Take a trip down memory lane to understand why today’s descendants of the organization spend more time fighting each other than offering Democrats any serious competition.
Late Richmond Hill Republican Club leader Wilfred Dalton was a major force in politics for several decades up until the 1980’s. Any serious city, state or federal GOP candidate would stop by his clubhouse seeking support.
Former presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan all spoke at the clubhouse.
In 1976, former governor Nelson Rockefeller still controlled the New York State GOP. During the Republican Presidential Primary that same year, the GOP establishment rallied around President Ford.
Dalton endorsed former California governor Ronald Reagan, successfully electing pro-Reagan delegates to the national GOP Convention.
In 1980, the GOP establishment was split between George Bush and Bob Dole. Proving the second time is a charm, Dalton teamed up with others and again elected pro-Reagan delegates, pushing him to the nomination.
Until the 1980’s, Queens Republicans routinely qualified candidates for all congressional, State Senate, Assembly and City Council seats. They would offer Democrats serious competition.
After the 1982 reapportionment, Democrats eliminated the districts of Queens GOP Assembly members Rosemary Gunning, John LoPresto, John Flack, Al DelliBovi and John Esposito.
John Gallagher gave up his Assembly seat in 1972 to run unsuccessfully against Democratic congress member Lester Wolff. Doug Prescott briefly recaptured this seat in the 1990s, but eventually lost, leaving Queens with no GOP Assembly members.

GOP state senators Frank Padavan and Martin Knorr voted for this reapportionment plan, since it continued to protect their own gerrymandered districts.
In 1977, Republican Rabbi Sheldon Farber won a special election to fill a vacant seat against Democrat State Assembly member Gerdi E. Lipchutz, despite a 4-to-1 Democrat-versus-Republican voter registration advantage. This temporarily gave the Queens GOP a record three State Senators.
Farber declined to run in 1978, as he knew the odds were against him winning a full term in what traditionally was a safe Democratic State Senate seat.
Despite overwhelming Democratic Party enrollment in Queens County, creative gerrymandering by the GOP-controlled State Senate after the 2000 census continued to preserve the seats of both Republican state senators Serphin Maltese and Frank Padavan.
Eventually Democrats beat Maltese in 2008 and Padavan in 2010.
Before the surprise election of Bob Turner, the last Republican congress member from Queens was Seymour Halperin. After the 1970 reapportionment, he declined to run against Democrat Lester Wolff of Great Neck in 1972 when both were merged into one Queens/Nassau County district.
In 1982, Republican John LeBoutellier briefly recaptured this seat for one term. In 2011, Bob Turner won the 9th Congressional District in a special election defeating David Weprin to replace Democrat Anthony Weiner.
As a result of his district being gerrymandered out of existence, he ran and lost in the 2012 Republican Primary for Senate rather than seek reelection in another district.
James A. Lundy was the last GOP Queens borough president. He served from January 1952 to December 1957. Nat Hentel was the last GOP District Attorney. He was appointed by Governor Rockefeller and served one year in 1966.
During the 1990s under Republican mayor Rudy Guiliani, the GOP elected Tom Olgibene, Mike Abel and Alfonse Stabile from Queens.
In 2009, the GOP elected Dan Halloran, Peter Koo and Eric Ulrich. Koo changed his enrollment to Democrat in 2012. Halloran was sent to prison on political corruption charges.
Today, the last GOP public official from Queens is Ulrich. He may go down in political history as the last registered Republican public official from Queens.
In 2017, Councilman Bob Holden was elected on the Republican and Conservative party lines, but rejoined the Democrats after taking office, although he still routinely runs on the Conservative Party line.
Crossover Democrats who would vote Republican continue to move out of the borough or succumb to old age. There has been no successful GOP outreach to new Caribbean, Hispanic, Asian or other immigrant groups.
Attempts to reach middle-class African-American homeowners in former GOP neighborhoods has also failed. For decades, once the GOP loses any incumbent City Council, Assembly, State Senate or congressional representative, they are seldom ever able to reclaim the district.
Both Queens GOP factions should be thinking about the future instead of their own respective egos. Otherwise, the ever-dwindling number of Queens Republicans will continue down the path to political extinction.
The numbers just don’t afford Republicans the opportunity to elect anyone to public office, thus making them irrelevant in the General Election. Many Assembly districts no longer have active GOP political clubhouses.
Hundreds of Queens Republican county committee positions are vacant. There are few volunteers to circulate nominating petitions which are required to place candidates on the ballot or assist candidates in running campaigns.
In many cases, candidates are just placeholders on the ballot. They have no funding or volunteers and just go through the motions, knowing in advance they will lose by large margins.
As a result, they are unable to mount any serious challenges to incumbent Democratic officials. Democrats have a free pass every November.

Policy vs. lies

Dear Editor,
Both parties are putting forward wish lists for our country. The Democratic wish list? Infrastructure, healthcare, a living wage, green energy, fair taxes, police reform, childcare, voting rights, affordable housing, and social justice.
The GOP wish list? Matches to set fire to the Democrats list.
But what else is to be expected from a party that sat on its hands instead of applauding when President Biden called for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to pay their fair share?
Republicans aren’t interested in promoting policies, they’re interested in promoting lies, like resident Donald Trump won the election, Joe Biden’s climate proposals would limit people to one burger per month, and that all migrant children were given a copy of Kamala Harris’s book, when one copy was donated to a shelter for immigrant children in California.
Robert LaRosa

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