A down-ballot race in Northern Queens is getting heated in the final hours.
In tomorrow's Republican primary for the state committee positions in the 26th Assembly District, which includes Auburndale, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck and Whitestone, Queens Republican Chairman Phil Ragusa and former Board of Elections Commissioner Judith Stupp are facing off against Sal Bacarella and Ann Marie Devlin, in a race that could end the years-long civil war in the county party.
Over the weekend, mailers sent out by Bacarella and Devlin say the duo has been endorsed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But Herb Stupp, Judith's husband who served as Commissioner on Aging in Giulani's administration, cannot believe that is the case. The mailers also say Bacarella and Devlin have been endorsed by GOP mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. Ragusa is backing Lhota's primary challenger, businessman John Catsimatidis for mayor. The Bacarella campaign released a photo of the candidate with Lhota and Giuliani taken Sunday, allegedly during the official endorsement.
"That doesn't mean anything," said Herb Stupp. "My wife and I have plenty of pictures with Giuliani."
Stupp said Giuliani typically does not endorse in party primaries and that he and Judith both heard personally from a Giuliani spokesman that the former mayor would not and is not endorsing in the state committee races in Queens. The Giuliani spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.
Kevin Ryan, communications director for Bacarella's and Devlin's campaigns, said the two challenges did indeed get an endorsement for Giuliani.
"All the information on our mailers is true, unlike our opponents. It's yet another disgrace from Ragusa's cronies and another reason why we need to restore integrity to the Queens GOP," he said. "If the Stupps are such Giuliani supporters, why are they supporting Catsimatidis and not Lhota?" he added, referring to the former mayor's support of Lhota in Tuesday's primary.
The mailings are also being sent out in support of Bart Haggerty and Amanda Kohut in the Forest Hills-based 28th District and for incumbent Tony Nunziato and challenger Margaret Ognibene in the Maspeth-based 30th District, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Ragusa-supporter Rosemarie Iacovone. Haggerty and Kohut are seeking the oust Juan and Catherine Reyes, the parents of 2012 state Senate candidate Juan Reyes.
Voters began receiving robocalls for Bacarella and Devlin featuring Giuliani's official endorsement late Monday.
Stupp said his wife and Ragusa are being backed by former state Sen. Frank Padavan, who represented the area until 2011. Former state Sen. Serphin Maltese is doing robocalls in support of the Reyes' in the 28th District.
The battle for control of the Queens GOP dates back at least five years. In 2011, former Councilman Tom Ognibene attempted to wrestle control of the party out of Ragusa's hands, but failed. A victory by Bacarella and Devlin, as well as other Ragusa foes, could give Ognibene the votes to oust Ragusa this year.
Queens' only elected Republican, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) backs Ognibene's bid for the leadership. Ulrich has backed Bacarella and Devlin, as well as former Rep. Bob Turner, according to Ryan.
The headline and subhead for this story have been changed to reflect the fact that the alleged endorsement remains under dispute.