The three amigos

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NYC Republican Councilmembers Vincent Ignizio, Steven Matteo and Eric Ulrich are the three amigos.  Just as Melissa Mark-Viverito has the votes to become NYC Council speaker, so does NYC Republican Councilmember Vincent Ignizio for the new City Council Minority leader.  This result is because two of the three last GOP councilmembers are from Staten Island, while Eric Ulrich as the last GOP Queens Councilmember, has no one to vote for him.  No wonder Ulrich cut his own deal to support Melissa Mark-Viverito for NYC Council speaker.  This vote is rumored to be in exchange for becoming chairperson of the Council Waterfronts committee.  NYC Democrats have gerrymandered City Council district lines for over 50 years after abolishment of the previous Board of Alderman. At one point, after the borough wide Councilmember at large positions were abolished in 1982, there was only one Republican City councilmember, Susan Molinari of Staten Island.

During the 1990s, the GOP elected Charles Millard and Andrew Eristoff in Manhattan, Martin Golden in Brooklyn along with Mike Abel, Tom Olgibene and Alfonse Stabile in Queens and Fred Cerillo of Staten Island.  This resulted in their caucus growing to a record seven members.

Flash forward to the 2013 general election results. Staten Island GOP Councilmember Vincent Ignizio will be accompanied by fellow Staten Island/Brooklyn Councilmember Steven Matteo and Eric Ulrich from Queens for a total of three GOP councilmembers.  As minority leader, Ignazio will have a larger office than some other councilmembers. The other 48 Democratic councilmembers will meet behind closed doors to elect a Council speaker.  In 2001 as a newly elected councilmember Democrat David Weprin said “the Office of NYC Council speaker is too important to allow the handful of Republican councilmembers any say in the selection process.”  It will be the same in 2013.  The Democratic Council 48 member caucus will determine the next Council speaker.  Whoever becomes Council speaker will give the three last remaining Republican councilmembers whatever crumbs fall off the table.  Each will receive a lulu for chairing a Council Committee and some token amount of pork barrel member item spending after the Democratic councilmembers first finish rewarding themselves.  To the victor belong the spoils of office.  Without a Republican mayor to work with, Ignizio, Matteo and Urlich will be next to useless.

Bloomberg abandoned the Republican Party, whose ballot line he “rented” for convenience in winning a second term in 2005 and third term in 2009. Bloomberg barely won a third term spending over $160 million to overcome a citywide five to one Democrat versus Republican voter registration advantage. Over the past four years, this enrollment gap has grown to a six to one Democrat versus Republican registration advantage. He continued his past track record of doing little to help finance and run serious Republican challengers against incumbent Democrats.

Bloomberg’s 2005 and 2009 reelection strategy was deliberate in not spending any significant time campaigning or fundraising for GOP challengers. He didn’t want to increase turnout of registered Democrats or offend incumbent Democrat Party public officials. As a result, he had virtually no GOP allies in City Hall holding the offices of comptroller, public advocate or any new Republican councilmembers.

In 2005, the GOP was unable to convince former NYC Councilmembers Charles Millard and Andrew Eristoff of Manhattan or Mike Abel and Alfonse Stabile in Queens to run for their former seats. Based on past name recognition, ability to raise funding along with attracting campaign volunteers, each would have been the strongest candidate to reclaim their respective old seat. After the 2005 elections, the GOP was unable to expand their meager base beyond Andrew Lanzo and James Oddo from Staten Island and Dennis Gallagher from Queens. As a result, the City Council consists of 48 Democrat and three Republicans. Historically, once the GOP loses any City Council, State Assembly, State Senator or Congressional seat, they never seem able to reclaim it.

Analysis of the 2005 election results reveal that Mayor Bloomberg had no coattails to elect any new GOP Council candidates from Democratic Party controlled seats even with his 20 point margin of victory. The five most hopeful Republican candidates who came closest to winning included Peter Boudouvas (Queens 19th district – 38 percent), Pat Russo (Brooklyn 43rd – 45 percent)), Philip Foglia (Bronx 36 percent)), Joel Zinberg (Manhattan 5th – 35 percent)) and Patrick Murphy (Manhattan 4th – 35 percent).

In the 1990s, Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani had a record seven Republican out of 51 NYC councilmembers. They included Mike Abel, Alfonse Stabile and Thomas Olgibene of Queens, Charles Millard and Andrew Eristoff of Manhattan, Martin Golden of Brooklyn and Fred Cerillo of Staten Island. They developed a working majority coalition with then Democratic NYC Council Speaker Peter Vallone Senior and more moderate Democratic councilmembers.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn and many of her generation of Democratic councilmembers were far more liberal and anti-business. The only way Quinn was able to assist Bloomberg in keeping more radical anti-business and other extreme legislation in check was to keep it bottled up in Council Committees. Quinn would periodically not allow such legislation to move forward for a full vote among all 51 NYC councilmembers.

There was only a handful of GOP elected officials to assist 2013 Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. Virtually all were from Staten Island. This predominantly middle class borough still remains competitive for Republicans despite a 2 to 1 Democrat to Republican voter registration advantage. Staten Island Democrats tend to be more moderate than those from the rest of NYC and are more likely to cross party lines to vote Republican. GOP Congressmember Michael Grimm (11th CD), State Senators Andrew Lanza (24th SD) and Marty Golden (22nd SD) along with Assemblymembers Nicole Malliatokis (60th AD) and Joseph Borelli (62nd AD) represent either Staten Island and/or Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. There was also Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro (a registered Conservative Party member cross endorsed by the GOP), District Attorney Dan Donovan along with NYC Council Minority leader James Oddo and Councilmember Vincent Ignizio from Staten Island along with Councilmembers Dan Halloran and Eric Ulrich from Queens. The rest of NYC is solidly represented by Democrats. Halloran faced criminal charges in 2013 rendering him useless as a councilmember reducing the GOP delegation to three effective members.

With the class of 2013 New York City councilmembers going forward, the three members of the NYC Republican City Council caucus will continue to become even less relevant.  Term limits will force Queens GOP Councilmember Eric Ulrich to vacate his seat in 2017.  Queens Democratic Congressmember and party boss Joe Crowley will finance and run a strong candidate for this future open seat.  The handful of remaining Queens Republicans face an ongoing civil war for control of the party going back decades.  They will be unable to field a strong candidate to succeed Ulrich.  At best, the class of 2017 Republican councilmembers may only consist of two members from Staten Island.