Yes, the dysfunctional Queen County Republican Party, which despite its constant infighting and seemingly meaningless power struggles manages to get candidates elected in a city where they are drastically outnumbered by Democratic voters, has found a new way to top – or lower - even themselves.
In case you're just arriving to the Party, for years there has been an internal power struggle among GOP members in the borough. In one camp, you have Phil Ragusa, who has been chair of the party for years. In the other camp, you have Bart and John Haggerty, brothers who have been trying to wrest control from Ragusa and his supporters.
(Incidentally, the later Haggerty brother is currently on trial, accused of stealing money from Mayor Michael Bloomberg that was supposed to be used to fund a poll-watching effort, but the Manhattan District Attorney's office alleges was instead used to buyout brother Bart's share in the family's house in tony Forest Hills Gardens. Bloomberg was actually forced to take the stand this week in the case to defend himself against charges that he knew exactly where the money was going when he hired Haggerty.)
But back to the Republicans and their new two-headed leadership.
Last week, Queens members of the Republican Party were required to reorganize, or in layman's terms elect their chair for the next two years. The “official” reorganization meeting was held in Flushing on Wednesday, September 28. But the Haggerty brothers organized their own meeting, which took place in South Richmond Hill.
At the Flushing meeting, 12 of the county's 18 Assembly district were represented, or two-thirds. All those in attendance voted for Ragusa. In a press release issued after the vote, the Queens GOP spun the results into “technically, Phil Ragusa won re-election with 100% of the vote.”
But at the same time at the Haggerty brothers meeting, a separate bloc of Queens Republicans was electing Tom Ognibene, the former councilman from Middle Village, as chair of the Republican Party.
Well, this is awkward!
Both factions tried to have their results certified with the Board of Elections. A GOP insider – and an attorney – that we spoke with the next day (hey! we sometimes speak with insiders every now and again), said that the laws are very vague in this case, and, technically, the Board of Elections could declare two chairs of the Queens County Republican Party, He said that was because it isn't completely clear that the Haggerty's meeting was unlawful.
However, he also said that wasn't likely to happen, and that it would be a matter for the courts to decide. And indeed both sides were in court this week as we were going to press arguing their side.
In order to simplify matters, basically what you have is a group of Republicans in north Queens battling for control of the party with a group of Republicans from south Queens. It's a real civil war we've got going on here!
It seems likely that Forest Hills and Middle Village will join the rebel faction of South Queens, but it remains to be seen what forces – loyalists or separatists - the GOP-ers in Rego Park will side with.
May we suggest that Queens Boulevard now informally be referred to as the Ragusa-Haggerty Line? It's so much nicer than the Boulevard of Death.