The Republican Party line is officially open in November’s 30th City Council District general election.
And according to Queens GOP Chairman Bob Turner, there’s a “very good” chance that Bob Holden, the insurgent Democratic candidate who lost this month’s primary to incumbent Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) will wind up on it.
“We have a reorganization meeting tomorrow night and this will certainly be a major topic,” Turner told the Chronicle on Tuesday. “I don’t know if anyone else is going to stand up for the seat, but certainly the possibility of Bob is very good.”
The original Republican candidate for the seat, which represents all or parts of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodside and Woodhaven, was area attorney Joseph Kasper.
But Kasper had no active campaign, was not registered with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, had not appeared at any candidate events or debates and does not live in the district.
As rumored in recent days, the Queens GOP nominated him at its Monday convention as a candidate for Queens Supreme Court, making Kasper, who has run for judgeships numerous times in the past, ineligible to run for the Council.
When asked if he anticipated any issues in granting Holden what is known as a Wilson Pakula certificate to run on the GOP line, since he is a registered Democrat, Turner said he did not.
“It depends on who would want to stand up to replace Kasper,” he said. “But right now, I don’t see that individual on the horizon.
“It would be nice if [Holden] wanted this,” he continued, adding that he has yet to talk to the civic leader about the possibility.
Holden, who lost the primary 64 to 36 percent, will be on the November ballot regardless, running on the Conservative, Reform and Dump de Blasio lines.
He told the Chronicle on Tuesday that no Republican Party official had approached him about the possibility yet, but running on the GOP line would be an “honor.”
“If it does happen, I would certainly accept it,” Holden said. “I would be foolish not to take a major party’s line.”
Turner said his party would be wise to at least consider Holden for the line, as the 30th Council District includes sizable pockets of Republican-leaning voters among whom the outspoken civic leader, despite being a self-described moderate Democrat, is a relatively popular figure.
“That has crossed our minds,” he said. “We’re well aware of the voter registration differential there.”
So is Holden, who said he would anticipate running on a major party line would only help his chances of defeating Crowley.
“I would think it would,” he said. “Maybe some people would be upset, but I don’t really know why.”
In fact, he would hope it endears him to voters who don’t want their lawmakers tied too tightly to any party.
“I’m not a party guy. My party is the civic party,” Holden said. “You would think people would want someone who isn’t tied to a party. If someone’s allegiance is to their constituents and not a party, that’s a plus.”
But not everyone is convinced the move will put Holden in a solid position to win come November.
Brian Browne, assistant vice president for government relations and political science professor at St. John’s University, told the Chronicle on Tuesday that Holden running on the GOP line “keeps his hopes alive” but not much more than that.
“I don’t think Bob has demonstrated the fundraising or the organizational prowess needed to run a competitive campaign,” Browne said. “He probably has a wide range of friends who can vote for him in general, but I’m not sure at this point something will drastically change.”
The basis of Browne’s belief comes from what he called an underwhelming showing for Holden in the primary. And while running on the Republican line would help him somewhat, overcoming such a big defeat in September in a “low turnout” general election isn’t likely.
“There isn’t a top-of-the-ballot Republican out there to attract attention. I don’t think Nicole Malliotakis is gonna bring many voters out in that part of Queens,” he said, referring to the GOP mayoral nominee. “If it was a closer primary, I would say he has a good chance.”
And when it comes to knocking off the cousin of Queens Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), the backing of the borough’s Republican Party most likely isn’t enough to move the needle much.
“Bob Turner is a great guy and I respect him a lot,” Browne said, “but it’s not a fair fight for the Queens GOP against the Queens Democrats when it comes to voter turnout and all the support they provide on and before Election Day.”
The possibility of Holden taking the GOP line has deepened the already fierce war of words between Crowley and Holden, who, as president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, has been a sharp critic of the incumbent for years.
Her camp said last week that Holden has been “lying to voters about his party affiliation” and called the idea of his running on the GOP line a “bait and switch.”
“‘Angry Bob’ has really been ‘Lying Bob’ this whole time,” Crowley said in a prepared statement. “He clearly always planned to run as a Republican after the primary, but lied to voters time and again these past four months.
“What’s worse, he used taxpayer money to fund his campaign of lies and lay the groundwork for this despicable bait-and-switch,” she added. “If we can’t trust Bob as a candidate, then we certainly can’t trust him in elected office.”
Holden said he has been a registered Democrat for 44 years, “longer than Elizabeth Crowley has been alive,” and told the Chronicle last week that he never planned to take the GOP line.
He said the only time he spoke with a Republican about running on the line was before he announced his primary campaign, when party member Michael Conigliaro said Holden should let him know if he wants to run.
Holden said he didn’t want to step on Conigliaro’s toes in case he wanted to run, and then once he saw that Kasper was on the ballot, he announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Holden claimed that Crowley is “nervous” about his candidacy despite her primary win, when only Democrats could vote and turnout was low, in large part because she’s too far to the political left.
“I can’t change my party; I’m a Democrat for 44 years,” he said. “There are moderate, more conservative Democrats in the world, which the mainstream Democrats don’t understand. They’re on the radical left, which I think Elizabeth Crowley is. She doesn’t fit the district.”
Crowley put Holden on the far right, her campaign’s statement claiming he has an “extensive record of extreme conservativ[ism] in the Democratic-leaning district.”
It also said an analysis of contributions to his campaign “showed the vast majority coming from registered Republicans,” which “would put the candidate’s support in line with Holden’s well-documented disparaging of immigrants and minorities.”
Holden responded by saying he doesn’t know the party affiliations of his contributors, and doesn’t care.
“How could I check that?” he asked. “Who would? Five hundred people gave to me. And why the hell does that matter? Am I going to say, ‘You’re a Republican — I won’t take it’?”
He also bristled at the idea that he disparages immigrants and minorities. Holden’s wife, Amy, personal secretary to former Gov. George Pataki, is ethnically half-Japanese, half-Italian.
“Oh my God, how does that work?” he said when told of the Crowley team’s statement. “If that’s something they put out, that’s a disgrace. How dare she say that?”
“I think my family portrait reflects various cultures, so how dare she say that. It’s out and out disgraceful. Tell my wife that. Tell my grandchildren that.
“It just confirms the nastiness and dirtiness of politics. That’s why I didn’t want to get into it in the first place. You tell Elizabeth Crowley the gloves are off because of that comment.”
The war of words got worse this week, when a source close to the Crowley campaign slammed Holden over a 2007 rally — of which Holden and the Juniper Park Civic were a part — in support of landmarking the old St. Saviour’s church in Maspeth.
At that event, according to reports at the time, a rally attendee raised eyebrows by waving a sign featuring a noose hanging from a tree, along with a caption saying it was “reserved” for then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Councilman Dennis Gallagher, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and City Hall staffer Matt Gorton.
After the incident, the city threatened to boycott the Juniper Park Civic unless its leadership apologized, but cooler heads later prevailed and the administration backed off.
The source said it just proves Holden has a history of “using racist imagery and bully tactics to intimidate,” even though all the men named on the sign are white.
“In the case of St. Saviour,” they said, “he used noose imagery, which is extremely offensive, to try to bully city officials.”
An angry Holden responded by saying he had nothing to do with the man’s inappropriate sign, noting he isn’t responsible for the views of everyone who attends the same events as him.
“Holy s--t, some guy from Flushing showed up with a sign and how does that reflect on me, exactly?” he asked. “That is so pathetic and such a stretch, it’s not even worth commenting on.
“Is this what people are trying to do? Label me?” he continued. “Crowley can’t attack me or my record as a civic leader. So she’s trying to label me, marginalize me and radicalize me.”