In what members hope was a major step toward its revitalization, the Whitestone Republican Club held a special meeting on May 1 at Grace Episcopal Church in Whitestone, with two Congressional candidates from the 3rd District as the scheduled featured speakers, but only one showed up.
According to the invitations announcing the event, the party needs to be organized and be heard “as our freedoms and safety are being put more at risk every day.”
Robert Beltrani, executive vice chairman of the Queens County Republican Party, indicated to the gathering of about two dozen supporters that “the strength in the party comes from the clubs. I’d like to see the Whitestone party come back to life.”
One member, Kimon Thermos, noted that “Whitestone has one of the largest areas of registered Republicans in Queens.” In Whitestone, Thermos said, the party is “only outnumbered two-and-a-half to one” by registered Democrats.
“I’d like to build a party that talks about local issues,” he added. “Start spreading the word to your friends and neighbors. There’s another voice of reason out there.
“We have a great message to present to people. We’re not the white man rich club. We want to talk to the middle class in this city. We need to start running candidates who can make a change.”
One of the candidates, Grant Lally, introduced himself as a former member of the Whitestone Republican Club. He is hoping to oppose Democratic incumbent Steve Israel (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens).
“It’s important to have clubs representing communities,” he said. “It’s great to see a real effort [is being made] to revive the old clubs. Politics is about communicating with people.”
A child of immigrants, Lally said, “I believe in America. We’re being badly served by the likes of Barack Obama, Bill de Blasio, and their mini-me, Steve Israel.”
Also seeking the position is Republican Stephen Labate, who had previously challenged Israel unsuccessfully in 2012. Labate was expected at the club meeting but had to decline at the last minute due to another engagement, according to Lauren Whalen-Nelson, a member of the Queens County Republican Committee who helped organize the event.
Lally told the audience, “This is a great country. We can do so much better.”
One issue on which he is focused is Obamacare, which he would like to see repealed.
According to his platform, “The answer to improving our healthcare system is not to turn it into a dysfunctional government-run program that puts a bureaucrat between you and your doctor. The answer is to increase access, increase competition and allow individuals to control their own healthcare. We need common sense, free market solutions that do not involve creating a bigger, more bloated federal government.”
During a brief question-and-answer session, one of the issues Lally addressed was immigration reform. “Let’s deal with our borders,” he said. “People shouldn’t be rewarded for coming here illegally. I don’t believe illegal aliens should vote.
“American citizenship is a very precious thing. It needs to be treasured. Part of it is the right to vote.”
In other areas, Lally has promised to vote to repeal the Obama tax increase, a 4.6-point hike on the top income bracket, suggesting, “We must reform and simplify the tax codes and cut taxes, to help families and small businesses in our neighborhood. Congress must make the tough decisions to balance the budget. I will support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.”
Lally plans to encourage job growth and make it easier to start and run a small business. He also supports a strong foreign policy for America, suggesting, “We must maintain tough sanctions to stop Iran — a terrorist state — from developing nuclear weapons.”
“We could be the place that pushes him over the top,” Beltrani said of Lally.
“I’m confident we’re going to win,” Lally said.
Primary day is June 24. Elections will be held on Nov. 4.