Former congressman Bob Turner will be named chairman of the Queens GOP this week. It is expected to become official during an Executive Committee meeting of the party in Forest Hills this week, which state chairman Ed Cox will attend.
Turner will serve as chairman until September, when the party will hold its official reorganization meeting. At that time, the party will vote on its chairman.
“It's exciting,” said party Executive Director Pierre Alcantara. “We can finally move forward and do what we are supposed to do as far as building the party in Queens. We have some races we are eying in the 2016-2017 election cycle.”
In an interview, Turner said that he was looking forward to healing the divisiveness that has plagued the party and getting down to the business of politics.
“We have a chance to get everyone together and work on the things that are important to the party, such as registering new members and selecting candidates,” he said. “We have a lot of good people who have put their differences aside. It's a very positive attitude.”
Both Turner and former vice chairman Robert Beltrani filed certificates naming themselves the duly-elected chairman of the party in the wake of former chairman Phil Ragusa’s death in June of 2014 after both factions held their own, separate elections.
Neither the state nor the city Board of Elections has ruled on the dispute, other than to say that both certificates appear to conform to election laws and are valid. Additionally, the Credentials Committee of the party made no decision on the matter at the GOP’s 2014 State Convention.
Last month, approximately two-thirds of the state committee members - or district leaders as they are commonly known – from both factions signed a letter that was sent to Cox urging him to appoint Turner as chairman for the good of the party.
“After much discussion among ourselves over the past several months, we are now united in our belief that Congressman Turner is the person best suited to unify the disparate factions within the Queens County Republican Party,” read a copy of the letter obtained by this paper.
In addition to the political stability of the party, its financial stability has also been a concern as of late. It recently closed its longtime headquarters on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Bayside.
One party insider explained the location also served as the accounting office of Ragusa, and the party lost the lease after he died last summer and were looking for a new space. However, another member of the party said the county lost its headquarters because it couldn't pay the rent.
This feud has split the Queens GOP for nearly two decades, and Alcantara, who is 31 years old, said many Republicans from his generation have never experienced a fully unified party.
“Some of the younger members of the Queens Republican Party, we inherited this feud,” he said. “It has hurt a lot of good people on both sides, and some of those good people have just walked away. It's time for this to end.”
One of those longtime members is Bart Haggerty. He said members of the party finally realized they could never achieve their political goals if party loyalists couldn’t put aside their personal differences.
“We can’t keep doing the same thing and getting the same results,” he said. “People came to the conclusion that this was a way forward for the party. This was no longer working for any of us.”
Haggerty, who always supported Turner’s claim to the chairmanship, said he is the right person for the job.
“Bob Turner is a man of integrity with nothing to gain from this,” he said. “He had a career, he served in Congress. I think it’s very telling about his dedication to the party that he even wants to do this.”
Turner spent his professional life as a television media executive, and made his first foray into the public sector when he ran against incumbent Congressman Anthony Weiner in 2010. Considered a longshot candidate, Turner lost but received a respectable 39 percent of the vote.
Less than a year later, Weiner was forced to resign from office over a sexting scandal, and Turner ran against former councilman and current assemblyman David Weprin in a special election. This time he was victorious.
Unfortunately for Turner, in 2012 the district was eliminated in redistricting resulting from the 2010 Census.
Haggerty said Turner has a track record of raising money and winning elections.
“I think the goal of any party is to get people elected to office, and if you aren’t doing that something is wrong,” Haggerty said. “Bob Turner understands that."