The Queens GOP in danger of going under
by Larry Penner
Nov 30, 2011 | 2199 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The most recent fight for control of the Queens County Republican organization between factions led by current county chairman Phil Rugusa and challenger Bart Haggerty and his insurgents reminds me of two hyenas fighting over the carcass of a dead animal - in this case 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 1980's 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 rather than offering Democrats any 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. Doug Prescott briefly held a seat in Bayside in the 1990s, but eventually lost, leaving the GOP with two out of 61 assembly members, both from Staten Island.

Despite overwhelming Democratic Party enrollment in Queens County, creative gerrymandering by the GOP-controlled State Senate in 2002 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, who after the 1972 reapportionment declined to run against Democrat Lester Wolff of Great Neck when both were merged into one Queens/Nassau district. In 1982, Republican John LeBoutellier briefly recaptured this seat for one term.

You would have to go back to the 1950s or earlier to find the last GOP Queens borough president. Nat Hentel was the last GOP District Attorney in 1970.

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 and other immigrant groups. Attempts to reach middl- 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.

The NYC Council Districting Commission will draw new City Council district boundaries based on the 2010 census. Their actions could determine the future political survival for last remaining Queens Republican elected officials: council members Dan Halloran, Eric Ulrich and Peter Koo.

Gerrymandering could make it impossible for any of them to win another term. If that fails, you can be sure Queens Democrats will target all three for defeat. The party needs all three votes in its pocket to deliver the office of City Council speaker to Queens in 2014.

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.
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