Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) responded this week to critics over his decision to back his colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx), a staunch liberal Democrat, for speaker.
Ulrich, the only Republican on the City Council outside of Staten Island, was re-elected in November. He announced that he would back Mark-Viverito on Dec. 19, along with six other Queens Council members and members-elect, including Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens).
Critics of his choice, including several war veterans, point to Mark-Viverito’s refusal to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance at past Council meetings, although she does it now.
In November, Ulrich was quoted as saying he believed Mark-Viverito speakership would be a “disaster” and criticized her for not saying the Pledge.
Suggestions have been made that Ulrich was promised a prime committee chairmanship — which the new speaker would give out — for his support, but Ulrich flatly denied that was the case.
“That would constitute a quid pro quo and is not something that I would ever entertain,” he said in an email last week.
Multiple Democratic sources have said committee assignments and chairmanships have not yet been promised or given out by either Mark-Viverito or her opponent for speaker, Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan).
Ulrich went on to say he had to choose between Mark-Viverito and Garodnick, who has the backing of Queens Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and at least two Queens Council members: Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
“I am faced with a choice between two self-described ‘progressive’ Democrats,” he said, “one who has the support of labor and Mayor Bill de Blasio and the other who is being pushed by Democratic Party bosses in Queens, Manhattan and The Bronx. There is no moderate to conservative alternative in the race. I decided to go with Melissa because I believe she will be more responsive to the needs of my district, most of which are Sandy related,” he said.
“I have tremendous respect for both of my colleagues and have worked with them in the past. However, like every vote I cast at City Hall, I do so based upon what I think is best for my constituents. While it might seem a bit unorthodox or like inside baseball to some, people really shouldn’t overanalyze these things,” he continued.
Mark-Viverito, is a favorite of progressive Democrats, Mayor-Elect de Blasio and the Working Families Party, which backed Ulrich in his race against Democrat Lew Simon this year, although he failed to get its ballot line.
Of the three Republicans on the City Council, Ulrich is second in seniority after incoming Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio (R-Staten Island). They are joined by Councilman-elect Steve Matteo (R-Staten Island). Republicans lost every other race, including the open seat of Dan Halloran in Northeast Queens.
The new Council will officially elect its new speaker on Jan. 8.