The flushing elected official – we won't say shocked, but certainly surprised – many when he won the seat formerly held by City Comptroller John Liu by running as a Republican in 2009. And that was even with the wildly popular Liu endorsing Koo's Democratic opponent.
But now he has – we won't say shocked, but certainly surprised – many again, this time by officially switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. We say only “surprised” because Koo has been hinting for a while now that he wasn't happy with the Queens County GOP and that he was considering defecting.
Many are speculating what kind of effect this will have in the City Council. We predict almost none. The Democrats will go from having a huge majority (before Koo left there were five Republicans out of 51 members) to having, well, a huge majority.
No, Koo's decision to leave the Queens County Republican Party will actually have the greatest impact on the Queens County Republican Party.
For years, there has been a power struggle between two rival factions in the Queens GOP – the current leader Phil Ragusa and his supporters versus a group of Republicans from south Queens led by Bart Haggerty and his recently convicted brother John, who was found guilty of misappropriating funds paid by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign to run a poll-watching operation.
While Koo will say publicly he left the Republican party because of differences in ideology, behind the scenes everyone knows that he was disenfranchised with county leadership, not only because of a lack of support, but also because they increasingly left him out of major party decisions.
No, Koo didn't see much point in staying with the Republican Party if he didn't get any support, and if remaining loyal to the party meant that he was missing out on possibly chairing a City Council committee (Republicans don't get many of those appointments in the Democratic-controlled City Council), making him unpopular with his fellow Flushing elected officials, or costing him re-election.
So Koo jumped ship.
Who really looks bad in all of this is Chairman Phil Ragusa, who under his watch couldn't keep a precious Republican City Council seat. And not because it was lost in an election, but rather it just vanished, and whether you choose to believe it or not, it looks on the surface like Ragusa dropped the ball.
Which is good - no great - news for those looking to overthrow Ragusa. Among those believed to be among that group is Councilman Eric Ulrich, who in quotes in the New York Observer jumped at the chance to throw the current county leadership under the bus. Check this out:
“I’m really disappointed, but at the same time I can’t blame him,” Ulrich is quoted as telling The Politicker. “Peter is a rock star and a superstar in his community. He represented the future of this party and I tried to do everything I could to help him stay in the Republican Party. But I don’t think people at county level or the local level were particularly helpful in respect to that.”
But that's not the most telling quote:
“There was a lot that other people could have done to keep Peter Koo in the party and they simply did not do it...They could have engaged him a little more. They could have included him more in the decision-making process. I think they could have treated him a little better than they did. The finger pointing will start after the fact, of course.”
But tell us how you really feel, councilman!
The Democrats officially welcomed Koo into the party on Monday, but truth be told, his defection will have very little impact in the Democratic Party. No, where his defection will be most felt is in the party he decided to leave behind.