The disappearing Queens Republicans

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With the lone exception of Councilmember Eric Ulrich running against Democratic incumbent State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. in the 15th State Senate District , all other Queens Republican candidates for public office will be drowned in yet another Democratic tidal wave. Queens Republicans didn’t help themselves in 2012 by once again abandoning the field. In too many cases, they failed to provide voters with alternatives to the Queens Democratic Party machine monopoly giving them free passes for another two-year term.

One way of judging the health of any political party is looking at the number of candidates running for public office that qualify for ballot status on their line. Political parties are organized on a State Assembly basis with a male and female State Committee person. Within each Assembly district are a series of election districts represented by two district committee people. Real political parties find candidates and enough active registered party members to circulate nominating petitions. You only need five percent of registered Republican Party members within any Assembly district to qualify for ballot status as a candidate for the Assembly. The average Republican Party enrollment per Assembly district averages several thousand. Finding this should be easy. This is necessary to acquire sufficient signatures for qualifying candidate ballot status. Those political parties that can’t perform this most basic task exist only on paper and are essentially dead. Up until the 1980s, Republican Party members routinely qualified candidates for all Congressional, State Senate, Assembly and Council seats.

There are no GOP candidates on the ballot for one of six Congressional, three of seven State Senate and 13 out of 18 State Assembly races in the 2012 November General Election.

With the exception of Ulrich running against Addabbo, the balance of GOP candidates for Congress, Senate and Assembly with ballot status raised insufficient funding for their respective races. Experienced political campaign consultants and good newspaper reporters know that based on past electoral history, a Republican challenger needs to raise several hundred thousand dollars to be competitive. This is needed to even the playing field against any Democratic incumbent public official. Don’t forget, that as of April, 2012 there are 694,353 Democrats, 132,953 Republicans, 203,141 with no declared party affiliation, 26,261 Independence, 5,967 Conservative, 3,114 Working Family and 1,011 Green registered voters in Queens. Any Republican also needs to convince large numbers of Democrats and others to cross party lines.

GOP Congressional candidates Stephen A. Labate running against Democratic Congressmember Steve Israel in the 3rd CD and Councilmember Dan Halloran versus Democratic State Assemblymember Grace Meng in the 6th CD could have been serious contenders but for the lack of sufficient funding. GOP State Senate candidate Joseph Concannon running against Democratic State Senator Tony Avella (11thSD) for the seat formerly held by GOP Senator Frank Padavan will go down to defeat due to a lack of money. Republicans should have convinced Jean Deacy who came close in her race against Democrat Phil Goldfeder to fill the 23rd State Assembly District formerly represented by Audrey Pheffer in a Special Election late last year to try a second time. Instead , the GOP gave Goldfeder a free pass by not running anyone. Likewise, Democratic State Assemblymember Edward Braunstein (26th AD) has no GOP opponent. Significant portions of his district have been represented by many Republicans including former GOP Assemblymember Doug Prescott, former Councilmember Mike Abel, current NYC Councilmember Dan Halloran and former State Senator Frank Padavan. The 26th AD has the highest concentration of registered Republicans of any Queens State Assembly District. Give GOP State Assembly candidate Anthony Nunziato credit for running a second time against Democratic State Assemblymember Margaret M. Markey (30th AD). He will once again go down to defeat due to insufficient campaign funding. Only Ulrich who is being heavily supported by the GOP State Senate campaign committee and other GOP affiliated political action committees has sufficient funding to be a viable candidate.

Mayor Bloomberg, former Mayor Giuliani, former Governor Pataki, former Senator D’Amato, New York State Republican Committee, New York State Assembly Campaign Committee, the national GOP Congressional Campaign Committee along with various affiliated political action campaign committees once again have failed to assist in raising significant dollars for Queens GOP candidates. They invested their financial resources in contests where GOP candidates have a chance of winning, rather than those holding a place on the ballot.

Incumbents start off with the perks of public office and an overwhelming five-to-one or more Democratic to Republican voter registration edge in most neighborhoods. They have easy access to various special interest “pay-to-play” contributors who are always looking for political favors at taxpayers’ expense at a later date. They also have ample public funds for numerous mailings to constituents along with announcement of member items (local pork barrel projects) to grease the wheels of re-election. Don’t forget staff-written letters to the editors and guest op-ed page columns, which frequently appear in local weekly community and daily newspapers. All of the above is at taxpayers’ expense. Local GOP candidates can’t seriously mount effective campaign efforts other than speaking at public forums sponsored by local civic associations.

In New York, President Obama is currently out polling GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney by over 28 points, ditto for Gillibrand by 37 points over Long. The national GOP campaign committee, Romney’s own Presidential campaign along with various independent political action committees seceded New York to Obama months ago. Romney just like previous GOP Presidential candidates has no boots on the ground in New York. There is no campaign office with a skeleton staff or campaign budget. No funds have been invested for telephone banks to get out the vote, mailings, newspaper, radio, or television media buys to provide any political coattails. Romney continues spending no time campaigning in a state he has already written off. The only visits to New York Romney has conducted is to raise money. GOP Senate candidate Wendy Long is another sacrificial lamb who continues to remain unknown with no money to be taken seriously.

With Obama and Gillibrand heading the Democratic Party ticket, they will be providing strong coattails for fellow Democrats further down the ballot running for Congress, State Senate and State Assembly. Democratic Congressmembers Joseph Crowley (14th CD), Carolyn Maloney (12th CD), Gregory Meeks (5th CD), Nydia Velazquez (7th CD), Hakeem Jeffries (8th CD) and Steve Israel (3rd CD) will be providing a third set of coattails. This means that incumbent Democratic State Senators Tony Avella (11th SD), Michael Gianaris (12th SD) and Toby Ann Stavisky (16th SD) will easily triumph over their respective Republican opponents. Only Democratic Addabbo has to break a sweat running for another term. This pending tidal wave may rival or surpass Democratic President Lyndon Johnson crushing Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964 or the resignation of Republican President Richard Nixon which resulted in a post Watergate 1974 Democratic Party victories in 1974. Both the 1964 and 1974 elections resulted in incumbent Republicans on the federal, state and local levels losing safe districts in record numbers. Even worse is the weak Republican ticket lead by Romney and Long in New York. They will be an albatross around the neck for fellow Republicans running for Congress, State Senate and State Assembly. Republican incumbents will have a stepper hill to climb to win another term. Any hopes of victory for GOP candidates challenging incumbent Democrats are gone. Republican State Senate majority leader Dean Skelos with a slim two seat majority has the most to lose. His task keeping control of the State Senate has become even more difficult.

Despite overwhelming Democratic Party enrollment in Queens, creative gerrymandering by the GOP-controlled Senate in 1980, 1990 and again in 2000 preserved the seats of both Republican Senators Maltese and Padavan.

The last Republican Congressmember from Queens who served multiple terms was Seymour Halperin. After the 1972 reapportionment, he declined to run against Democrat Lester Wolff of Great Neck when both were merged into one Queens/Nassau district. In 1982, GOP Congress member John LeBoutellier briefly recaptured this seat for one term. In 2011, GOP Bob Turner won the 9th CD special election to replace Democrat Anthony Weiner in a special election. As a result of his district being gerrymandered out of existence, he ran and lost in the 2012 Republican Senate primary rather than seek reelection from another Congressional district.

Crossover Democrats, who voted for former Presidents Reagan and Bush “Senior” in the 1980s, Bush Junior in 2000 and 2004, former Mayor Giuliani in the 1990s along with Mayor Bloomberg in 2001, 2005 and 2009 continue to move out of town, retire out of state or succumb to old age. There has been no successful GOP outreach to new Caribbean, Hispanic, Asian and other immigrant groups. Attempts to reach middle class African-American homeowners in former GOP neighborhoods have failed.

For decades, once the GOP has lost an incumbent Assembly, Senate or Congressional representative, they are never able to reclaim the district.

After being elected in 1972, Padavan listed Republican-Conservative affiliations on his headquarters’ storefront. In the 1990s Padavan and Assembly member Prescott team proudly campaigned as your local Republican/Conservative team. Local Republican and tea party activists in 2010 were disappointed when stopping by Padavan’s campaign re-election headquarters in Bayside. There was no literature, bumper stickers, posters or lawn signs at Padavan HQ for his fellow GOP running mates.

Why was Padavan so uncomfortable with his fellow GOP running mates? Perhaps it was the Cuomo, Schumer and Gillibrand Democratic juggernaut sweeping Queens with record numbers. A party’s ticket is only strong when all the candidates, from top to bottom, work as a team. Republicans are in trouble when they are afraid to identify party affiliations and campaign on their own with no coordinated effort between them. Other Republicans were confused with Padavan’s standard political campaign re-election theme “Nobody Cares Like Frank” when he obviously doesn’t care about them. Both Padavan and former GOP State Senator Serf Maltese failed for decades to build a Republican brand name when they ran from it.

In most Queens neighborhoods, decades have passed since local GOP candidates campaigned door to door, sent out mailings, or ran commercial advertising. When was the last time someone wore a campaign button for a Republican candidate, had a bumper sticker on their car or a lawn sign? Sorry, but in Queens County winning the September Democratic Party primary is a sure bet for November.

Queens Republicans are on the way to political extinction like the dinosaurs of old! How disappointing that voters will have to look elsewhere for any alternatives to the Queens County Democratic Party machine monopoly.

New York state is fast becoming an overwhelming Democratic bastion. Sooner or later, the last Republican stronghold — control of the Senate will fall forever. It will occur sometime between 2020 and the next reapportionment effective in the 2022 general elections based upon the 2010 census. This will drive the final nail into the Republican Party coffin. They will no longer be able to gerrymander district lines to maintain control the state Senate.

Thanks to Padavan and Maltese, within New York City — Queens joined the Bronx and Manhattan with no Republicans in Albany. Remember when NYC sent six GOP senators to Albany including Guy Vellela (Bronx) and Roy Goodman (Manhattan)? With the loss of Maltese (2008) and Padavan (2010), only GOP Senators Marty Golden (Brooklyn) and Andrew Lanza (Staten Island) remain. Democrats come out of NYC controlling 22 of the other 24 state Senate seats. This makes it even more challenging for Dean Skelos to continue remaining GOP Senate majority leader after the 2010 reapportionment. The failure of both Padavan and Maltese to only care about their respective next election rather than building a viable Queens GOP is the inheritance today’s generation of underdog Republican candidates including Eric Ulrich and others have to live with.