As a key Republican Party nomination battle for state Senate shapes up between Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Forest Hills attorney Juan Reyes, the Queens Conservative Party today gave Ulrich an ideological boost by throwing him its support.
Ulrich had announced several weeks ago that he'd be running for the 15th Senate District against Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach). But then last week the Queens GOP leadership, which Ulrich opposes, endorsed Reyes in the race, forcing Ulrich to run a primary campaign.
Both camps said their candidate would bring conservative principles to the table in a race against Addabbo, ones that are necessary to bring real change to Albany.
"Eric understands that job creation is the key to strengthening our communities and putting New York back on the right path," Queens Conservative Chairman Tom Long said in announcing the party's endorsement. "He will fight for lower taxes on small businesses and provide incentives for businesses to hire and grow. We need new leaders in Albany, like Councilman Ulrich, who will focus on fixing the economy and making our neighborhoods safe."
"I'm extremely grateful to Chairman Tom Long and the Queens County Executive Committee for their support," Ulrich said. "The residents of Queens are struggling to get by in this difficult economy, yet our current representative has consistently voted for higher taxes and wasteful government spending that is driving jobs out of New York. I will work tirelessly to bring new, good-paying jobs to our community and make Queens more affordable for the middle class."
Reyes, in a statement issued by the Republican leadership last Thursday, said, “I am honored to have the Queens GOP’s endorsement as I campaign to bring our district’s vital message to Albany. That message is one of less spending, lower taxes, less burdensome regulations and more accountability, more transparency, and more freedom that leads to greater growth and economic strength.”
The Queens GOP has been torn for years between two camps. The establishment, strongest in northern Queens, consists of Chairman Phil Ragusa and lieutenants such as Vince Tabone and Robert Hornak. The insurgent group, with its base in southern Queens, includes Ulrich and his chief of staff, Bart Haggerty, among its most prominent members. Each side says the other is not only weak but at times corrupt.
Ulrich got another boost in his campaign when Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) posted a statement backing his run on Facebook, the same day the party establishment announced that it would back Reyes. Halloran is running for the redrawn version of the 6th Congressional District, now represented by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau).
"My friend and City Council colleague Eric Ulrich is running for state Senate, in a district that partially overlaps my new Congressional seat," Halloran said — rather boldly predicting the results of November's election months ahead of time. "Political Albany Democrats have spent and spent until our state is on the brink of bankruptcy. People are leaving New York State because they can’t afford it and we’re bleeding middle-class jobs. I will be honored to work [with] Eric as our state senator. It's time for younger, non-career, politicians to step up to the plate. It's time for real change. The GOP will make Queens the epicenter of taking back Republican strongholds in NYC."
The seat that Ulrich and Reyes hope to win from Addabbo is one the Republicans held for years under state Sen. Serphin Maltese, until he was defeated by Addabbo in 2008. Maltese is also a former chairman of the state Conservative Party. With Republican control of the state Senate resting on a razor-thin margin, the GOP is determined to win back seats like Addabbo's.
In 2010, Addabbo fended off a challenge from Republican Anthony Como, who had done a brief stint as a city councilman following the resignation of Dennis Gallagher, who quit over a sex scandal. Como lost the council seat, which had previously been reliably Republican, to now-Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who is running in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District — the seat that Halloran seemed to think he'd already won in his posting backing Ulrich.
The Republicans have been bolstered in their belief that they can win back seats they recently lost by last year's victory of now-Rep. Bob Turner (R-Rockaway) over state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Hollis) in the race to replace former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned over revelations of his lewdness. Their cause could be further advanced if Mitt Romney makes headway in his run against President Obama and more Democrats in Queens become dispirited enough to avoid heading out to vote at all in November. Democrats like Addabbo are promoting a centrist image in line with that of Gov. Cuomo, who has won the approval of many Republican voters by standing up in several instances to the liberal state Assembly and the public employee unions, generally among the strongest backers of Democratic candidates.