Republican City Council candidate Robert Hornak wants to party like its 1999.
Throwing his hat in the ring last February to succeed term-limited Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. in next year’s District 22 election, Hornak wants to go back to the lower property taxes and beefed up police presence of the Giuliani era of the 90s.
“I like Peter and I think he’s been an OK councilman,” Hornak said of the man that he hoped to replace. “But I’m gong to have a completely different focus.”
Tops on Hornak’s campaign platform is getting more cops on the street, slashing property taxes beyond what’s already been cut by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and to downsize city spending.
“Bloomberg has had it easy so far because tax revenues had always been going up,” Hornak said. “But now, things are shrinking and we’ve got to cut our spending.”
Currently working as deputy director of Minority Assembly Leader James Tedisco’s Manhattan office, Hornak founded the Urban Republican Coalition in 2002 to help unify the city GOP’s message. “Republicans need to reach out to the forgotten middle class, to help them stay in the city and to increase their quality of life,” he said.
Talk had Assemblyman Michael Gianaris as Hornak’s likely Democratic challenger, though Gianaris had yet to make his candidacy official. However, that didn’t stop Hornak from landing the first blow in a possible match-up.
“He’s a typical city Democrat that doesn’t understand that higher taxes hurt people,” he said of Gianaris. “He’s in lockstep with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.”
Hornak acknowledged that fundraising would be a challenge, saying that he was “leaning” towards opting-out from public campaign financing rules. “The system is broken and unfairly interferes with campaigns.”
On other issues important in District 22, covering Astoria, Long Island City and a sliver of Jackson Heights, Hornak called the recently announced Con Edison settlement for the July 2006 blackout a “joke,” urged a clean-up of dirty streets in the area and the creation of another Business Improvement District for Astoria.
Hornak called term limits “the best thing to happen to democracy in this city,” and advocated it at the state level.
But mostly, Hornak wanted to see real property tax relief for homeowners. Calling recent property tax rate reductions “token cuts,” the Republican candidate wanted to make much steeper rate reductions from the high levels introduced by Bloomberg during a citywide recession in 2002.
Also, he advocated for more police officers on the streets, saying that current off hours police patrols citywide were one-tenth what they were 10 years ago.
Despite what many expect to be a tough year for Republicans, with the State Senate in danger of switching Democratic for the first time in decades and a general lack of excitement for Republican Presidential nominee John McCain’s campaign — Hornak still believes the city’s GOP will hang on to what they got.
“I think we’ll hold on to the Senate and maybe even pick up a couple of seats here and there,” he said. “I think John McCain is a strong candidate that will help swing candidates down the ballot.”
Hornak, along with many Urban Republican members, takes as much a page from McCain as he does from Giuliani, with a “big umbrella” approach that seeks to unite social conservatives, libertarians and moderate Republicans under the same banner.
Born in Flushing, the 43-year-old Hornak grew up on Long Island, joining the debate team in high school and cultivating a lifelong interest in politics. Calling himself a libertarian Republican, Hornak took issue with only one social position of his potential Democratic challenger, opposing Gianaris’ support for gay marriage.
“I want to get new kinds of Republicans, not just conservatives,” he said.