There’s so much about Queens politics that evokes the theater of the absurd, but perhaps nothing more so than the suicidal tendencies of what’s left of the Republican Party here.
One bright spot among the gloom of the weakened GOP is the rising star of City Councilman Eric Ulrich, the moderate, thoughtful 27-year-old lawmaker from Ozone Park. Ulrich is seeking to replace Democratic state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. of Howard Beach in the 15th District, and he would be a formidable opponent. But first he has to get over a ridiculous hurdle put in his way by the Republican leadership, with whom Ulrich and a cadre of like-minded insurgents have been at war for years.
That hurdle is the candidacy of Juan Reyes, a Forest Hills attorney endorsed by the old guard Ulrich opposes. While Reyes served the city as a lawyer under mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, he’s whistling Dixie in opposing Ulrich. Not only is the councilman popular, he’s got the support of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, as well as that of Rep. Peter King, one of the state's most prominent Republicans, and presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the party’s de facto leader.
Who backs Reyes? Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who knows corn but not Queens, and whose last known endorsement was for Viagra, and Donald Rumsfeld, whose claim to fame is mismanaging the war in Iraq in every possible way.
Ulrich is no right-wing ideologue. He backs raising the minimum wage and mandating paid sick leave for most workers. He knows the issues, works hard and is wise beyond his years.
Even if he somehow loses the GOP race on Sept. 13, Ulrich will remain on the ballot on the Conservative line and, possibly, the Independence one too. So a Reyes win would only help Addabbo.
Republicans should vote for Ulrich, setting up a real race between him and Addabbo, another fine public servant. Then the people of the district can’t lose no matter who they pick in November. And the Queens GOP should grow up.