Tag Archives: Politics

John Liu endorses Congressmemeber Grace Meng for re-election


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Congressmember Grace Meng

Former Comptroller John Liu put an end to rumors he may run against Congressmember Grace Meng by endorsing the popular Flushing representative for her re-election bid Monday.

“I thank John Liu for his endorsement and for highlighting the important work I’ve done in Congress during my first year in Washington,” Meng said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with him to make our city, state and borough an even better place to live.”

Liu, after an unsuccessful bid for mayor, has reportedly been eyeing a spot back in elected office.

However, the current part-time Baruch College professor has not confirmed or denied any rumors that include possible challenges to Congressmember Nydia Velázquez or State Senator Tony Avella.

 

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Primary Day Election Guide


| editorial@queenscourier.com

ELECTION

There are nine state primaries in Queens to be decided today — six Democatic, two Republican, one Independence.  Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will remain open until 9 p.m.  To find out where you can vote click here.

Primary Guides:

Senate District 10

Senate District 15

Senate District 16

Assembly District 25

Assembly District 33

Assembly District 38

Assembly District 40

Northeast Queens political races heat up


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Endorsements are rolling in for candidates making a run for district seats in northeast Queens.

The Queens County Republican Party unanimously endorsed Joseph Concannon for State Senate in the 11th District, where the Republican and retired city police officer from Bellerose will challenge incumbent State Senator Tony Avella for the seat.

In a statement, GOP Chair Phil Ragusa attacked Avella, saying the democrat “by every benchmark has simply failed the community” and “has not lived up to his campaign promises.”

GOP Law Chair Vince Tabone touted Concannon as a “brass tacks kind of guy with the common sense and the intelligence to fight for our community and make a difference in Albany.”

The Queens County Republican Party also endorsed civic leader Ralph Cefalo to run in the 26th Assembly District race, pitting the challenger against Assemblymember Ed Braunstein. According to the GOP, Cefalo — a Malba resident — has a 35-year record of community service, including a long tenure leading the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance and volunteering with the Order of the Sons of Italy.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky also recently picked up support from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, Communications Workers of America District 1 and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500. Earlier this month, the incumbent since 1999 gained the endorsement of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer for her try at re-election in the newly-formed Asian-American majority 16th District.

Stavisky will face a Democratic primary battle against John Messer, an attorney from Oakland Gardens. The pair battled it out in a primary two years ago before Stavisky beat him out for the seat. If she prevails once more, she will then go up against Republican runner Jung Dong “J.D.” Kim — a Korean-American attorney from Flushing who is also the Queens County Republican Party’s pick.

 

Where Does Unspent Campaign Money Go?


| kevinj.ryanmail@gmail.com

In this busy political season, candidates struggle to raise funds for their war chests, in the hopes of winning their races. Even with the enormous amount of money needed to mount a political campaign, there is often some left over after the buzzer. What happens to that unspent campaign money?

According to the rules set forth by the Federal and State Election Commissions, candidates’ committees can generally do a variety of things with surplus funds. Whatever they choose to do with it, it must be reported to the applicable commission in accordance with its rules. A surplus amount only exists if there is any money left over after all expenses and debts have been paid.

All expenditures must be filed under one of several general categories. The one universal rule is that the money must not be spent for “personal use.”

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) says that campaign funds may be used in a wide variety of ways, including:

• Moving expenses (including costs associated with “winding down” an office or campaign for a losing candidate)

• Payments to Committee

• Gifts. Campaign funds may be used to purchase gifts or make donations of nominal value to persons other than the members of the candidate’s family.

• Donations to charitable organizations

• Unlimited transfers to any national, state or local political party committee

• Donations to state and local candidates, pursuant to state law

• Returning it to the original donors

• Any other lawful purpose that is not considered a personal use

What constitutes personal use? It’s a murky area, but The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) states that an expenditure is considered personal use “if the contribution or amount is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign or individual’s duties as a holder of Federal office, including:

(A) a home mortgage, rent, or utility payment;

(B) a clothing purchase;

(C) a non campaign-related automobile expense;

(D) a country club membership;

(E) a vacation or other noncampaign-related trip;

(F) a household food item;

(G) a tuition payment;

(H) admission to a sporting event, concert, theater, or

other form of entertainment not associated with an election campaign; and

(I) dues, fees, and other payments to a health club or recreational facility.”

Similarly, New York State Election Law says that surplus campaign funds may be transferred to a constituted committee or party committee, contributed to a charity, prorated and returned to the donors, or held for use in a subsequent election campaign. Surplus campaign funds may also be used by an elected official for any lawful purpose, including defraying the ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his or her duties as the holder of an elected office. Contributions may not be converted to personal use not related to political campaign or holding public office or party position.

A candidate could hold on to campaign money for years, as long as he or she is still contemplating another run for office. Expenditures related to keeping that possibility alive, such as parties and dinners, are permissible.

Candidates who receive matching public funds from the government, such as New York City candidates receiving public funds from the Campaign Finance Program of

the New York City Campaign Finance Board, are required to use surplus money to repay public funds to the government. However, it can be a slow and difficult process for the City to collect those funds.

Leaving aside the broader issue of campaign finance, there is always the potential for abuse in reporting surplus expenditures, such as hiding the true purpose of expenditures by filing them under one of the acceptable uses. But given how much time and effort candidates and their committees need to spend to raise funds in even the smallest race, the law gives them latitude on how to spend it.

Let’s hope our Queens leaders and their staff are keeping accurate, open and timely records of the hard-earned money that voters donate to them.

 

Obama To Give Commencement Address In City; Traffic Tie-Ups Expected


| jlane@queenscourier.com

President Barack Obama is visiting the city today where he will deliver the commencement address at Barnard College before attending a series of campaign fundraisers.

The president arrives in town around 11 a.m. and is scheduled to deliver the commencement address around 1 p.m.

NY1 will carry the president’s commencement address live from Barnard College, starting at about 1 p.m. Monday.

Obama is also expected to receive a medal of distinction at the commencement.

The president graduated from neighboring Columbia University’s undergraduate college in 1983.

[NY1]

6th District Update: Sheng Out; Lancman, Meng Sue; Mittman Stays


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photos

A democratic underdog in the 6th District Congressional primary race will not see her big dreams fulfilled this year.

Ada Juan Sheng is off the ballot and out of the race due to an insufficient number of signatures, said a Board of Elections (BOE) representative. Both candidates on the Independent bid — Grace Meng and Joseph Tiraco — also got the boot due to lack of valid petitions.

“I have a big dream for everyone to live a better life. This is what I think about,” she told The Courier days before a BOE hearing upheld objections filed against her. “I have a good heart.”

According to court records, opponent Grace Meng — the Queens County Democratic Organization’s bid — will take Sheng to state Supreme Court to dispute the validity of her filed petitions on May 7. Each hopeful had until April 16 by midnight to submit at least 938 required signatures to the city in order to appear on the ballot for the June 26 primary.

Sheng said her campaign collected at least 1,477 signatures after going door to door. She condemned Meng and her backing from the Queens County Democratic Party for attacking her in court and causing her to “needlessly expend legal and financial resources to fend off challenges.”

“I did not make up these signatures. I’m not a liar,” said Sheng, 53, a television producer from Briarwood. “Shame on her for doing this.”

Meng said she did not single out Sheng simply because she is also Asian-American. She said general objections were filed against every candidates’ petitions.

“If they don’t seem to be sufficient, according to legal standards, that’s how we decide to challenge them,” Meng said. “I know there’s been discussion about these racial politics. I think our voters are smarter than that. I don’t think they choose who they’re going to vote for simply because of ethnicity. It hasn’t really worked in the past when people tried to play those games.”

According to the BOE, only two objectors — Jeffrey Wang and Sheryl Fetik — filed challenges against Sheng. Court records show Wang listed as the objector on the suit and Meng as the aggrieved candidate.

A similar tactic was conducted by Assemblymember Rory Lancman against Robert Mittman, a Bayside allergy specialist, as confirmed by Lancman’s camp.

While Mittman will still have to defend his case in Supreme Court against his opponent later this week, he was cleared during a BOE hearing on May 1.

“I’m very pleased that the BOE found that I had enough valid petitions to remain as a candidate,” Mittman said. “I’m ready, willing and able to fight to keep myself as a candidate in front of the Supreme Court.”

According to a BOE representative, candidates typically file general, then specific objections first before a hearing is held, where both parties may state their cases to a board of BOE commissioners. The representative said if candidates follow the BOE process, they usually take the case to court after the ruling. However, they are not restricted to the process and may file suit at a time of their own choosing.

Potentials eye Vallone’s seat in 2013


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Untitled-1

With Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s eyes on a larger prize, two Astoria natives have their sights set on his seat.

Democrat Tony Meloni, the founder and executive director of the New York Anti-Crime Agency, has already announced his intent to run for office in the 22nd Council District in 2013, while Costa Constantinides, who is serving as the deputy chief of staff for Councilmember James Gennaro, is “strongly considering” entering the race – now that Vallone is term-limited and cannot seek re-election.

Vallone says he is seriously mulling over a run for borough president, and that he has already begun raising money and discussing the possibility with officials throughout Queens. The councilmember went on to say he has yet to endorse a candidate to replace him, and will make that decision at a later time.

“I’ve worked with Tony for many years on Astoria issues, especially as they relate to public safety,” Vallone said. “He’s been working in the Astoria neighborhood for decades. I think he’s going to make a very formidable candidate. Costa has not announced, but I’ve been to a few of his fundraisers and said good things about him.”

Meloni plans to run on a platform focused on aiding small businesses, improving air quality and increasing public safety – particularly preventing another rash of gropings and sexual assaults, which have recently plagued Astoria. “Between the New York Anti-Crime Agency, the Immigration Advocacy Services, Community Board 1 and a large number of community organizations, I’ve been involved in the community for 27 years,” said the 56-year-old Meloni. “I wouldn’t be in this if I didn’t think I could win. I think I have a very strong base in our community and neighborhoods. I’ve been fighting for the community for many years, and this position could help me make a bigger difference. I feel I have the pulse of the community, and I know what we need to do in our area to keep it the vibrant and safe community that it is.”

Constantinides, who would also run as a Democrat if he opts to throw his hat in the ring, was previously president of the Queens County Young Democrats and legislative director for Councilmember Darlene Mealy. He is also currently the Democratic leader for 36th Assembly District.

“I’ve been meeting with civic and community leaders, elected officials and union leaders to gauge my support for City Council, and right now I’m getting overwhelming support,” said Constantinides, who claims he has already raised $33,000 through an exploratory campaign committee. “I’m a lifelong Astoria resident, and I love this community. I know what it takes to get things done. I’ve worked in the City Council for almost the last six years. I’ve been Democratic district leader for over three years, and in that time I’ve worked on things like saving the post office on 30th Avenue and making traffic safer for pedestrians on 21st Avenue.”

If he elects to run, Constantinides hopes to improve health care in the area, decrease overcrowding in neighborhood schools and make air quality cleaner.

The 37-year-old believes he could be very successful in the election, but spoke highly of his potential opponent, calling Meloni a “wonderful guy” who he has the “upmost respect for.”

6th District candidates pick up endorsements


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Candidates in the buzzing 6th Congressional District race have rolled out more boosts to their campaigns. Councilmember Dan Halloran picked up support from the Uniformed Fire Marshals Association, while Assemblymember Rory Lancman got the backing of the Communications Workers of America, District 1.

Contending for the same seat, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley got a leg up from the Captains Endowment Association — which represents the NYPD’s captains, deputy inspectors,inspectors and deputy chiefs — along with the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York and Long Island.

Assemblymember Grace Meng — the Queens County Democratic Organization’s bid — received endorsements from Latino community leaders, including former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, Senator Jose Peralta and Assemblymember Francisco Moya. She also received shared endorsements by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and public advocate Bill de Blasio.

Jeff Gottlieb — who Lancman accused of being a “sham candidate” — did not receive any endorsements as of April 18, said Jay Golub, Gottlieb’s campaign spokesperson.

 

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens couple found dead in apparent murder suicide

A man and woman were shot to death last night in their Queens home in what cops called an apparent murder-suicide — and one of the two children in the house at the time made the horrifying discovery, neighbors said. The victims, whose names were withheld, were found around 11: 30 p.m. in the home on Dillon Street in South Jamaica, cops said. In the house were the couple’s 2-year-old son and his 16-year-old stepsister. The teenager’s 18-year-old sister was out at the time. Read More: New York Post

 

GOP hopeful that Police Commissioner Kelly will run for mayor

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is being courted by a top state Republican to run for mayor next year — and the city’s top cop is open to the idea, sources told The Post. Kelly, who has come under fire for the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk and Muslim-surveillance policies, could use the City Hall post to continue driving down crime and fighting local terrorism “for another four or eight years,’’ said former state GOP Chairman William Powers, who heads the party’s newly created statewide “advisory committee.’’ Read More: New York Post

 

Fearless squirrels invade Queens co-op

They are marauding gangs of troublemakers who set fire to cars, cut electrical wires and cause power outages, evading capture by scaling walls and climbing trees. But while the Queens co-op residents being terrorized by the daredevil vandals say they know exactly who their tormentors are, they insist that they’re helpless in stopping the crime wave — because the suspects are sex-happy squirrels. Read More: New York Post

 

Residents Help Clean Rockaway Beach For The Summer Season

While it’s not summertime yet, the unseasonably warm temperatures this week got dozens of local residents to make sure Rockaway Beach is ready to make a positive first impression this season. Read More: NY1

 

Queens man arrested for breaking into Diddy’s East Hampton mansion, eating his food and wearing rapper’s clothes

A Queens resident’s unwelcome visit to Diddy’s East Hampton mansion on April 1 was no joke. Quamine T. Taylor was arrested at the rapper’s residence after cops say he entered through an unlocked basement door, and treated himself to a nearly day-long feast fit for a music mogul, according to the East Hampton Star. Read More: Daily News

 

Rookie police officer arrested after assaulting fiancee in his Queens home

A rookie NYPD cop was arrested in Queens Saturday for assaulting his fiancée, officials said. Off-duty Officer Alexandru Baiasu, 27, was arrested about 10:50 p.m. at his Rego Park home after attacking his 31-year-old fiancée during an argument, cops said. Baiasu, who was newly assigned to the Police Academy, was charged with assault and harassment, officials said. Read More: Daily News

 

NY Jets’ Tim Tebow attends Yankees-Angels game, sits with Dwyane Wade and gets booed by fans

Tim Tebow made the scene at the Stadium for Sunday night’s 11-5 win over the Angels. The newest Jet, who is due to attend workouts with the team on Monday, sat on the third-base side next to the Angels dugout with a Yankees cap on and, at one point, engaged in an animated conversation with Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat. When the Stadium video board showed Tebow, he received equal parts boos and cheers. Read More: Daily News

Assemblymember Grace Meng of Queens to run for retiring Congressmember Gary Ackerman’s seat


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Queens to run for retiring Congressman Gary Ackerman’s seat

Queens Democrats have chosen state Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Queens to run for retiring Congressman Gary Ackerman’s seat, according to two sources close to the party.Potential candidates met with party elders Sunday to make their pitch to run in the redrawn 6th Congressional District, which would be more than 37% Asian.“She is a smart choice for this new district and a strong candidate,” said one source briefed on the meeting.

Read more: Daily News

Eliminate voter apathy


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Amazingly, consumers seem to be spending, and Americans appear to be shedding the anxieties that have stymied confidence. American optimism is a remarkable resource that defines the U.S. as exceptional among all the nations.

Yet, the problems and threats confronting the world are ongoing and real. The multitude of dangers that could impact the U.S. make for jittery investors and frighten people, including those whose decisions will affect future employment. It also provides fodder for political gamesmanship that disregards the common good seeking electoral advantages.

The foolish vindictiveness of the political wars gave birth to the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movement. At first glance, these groups would appear as far apart as possible. The common thread is the unfairness felt by their members. Americans have concluded that government and the ground rules that have traditionally governed people’s lives have been turned into political spoils used to secure future support.

Politicians have concluded that most people do not vote. The voters who count are those who do so during primaries. As the most committed voters, they usually represent hardcore advocates of extreme positions. As a consequence, only those seeking an elected office that panders to the extremes have any hope of winning their party’s primary.

Citizens are in the streets across the nation and at rallies decrying anyone who believes that government is a force for good. Probably those who are protesting will participate in the upcoming presidential election process. It would be a shame if potential voters conclude that the process is so alienating as to excuse them from voting. Only when voter apathy is defeated and Americans accept their obligation to participate can America begin healing from the polarizing cancerous political wars that currently are normal.

Edward Horn

Assemblymembers address 111th Precinct


| ecamhi@queenscourier.com

“For the first time in five years, people think that New York is headed in the right direction.”

That’s the word from Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, who spoke at the 111th Precinct Community Council meeting on Tuesday, October 4. Both Braunstein and Assemblymember David Weprin discussed various hot-button policy issues as well as bills they have passed, and are pushing to pass, in Albany.

Braunstein, a lifelong Bayside resident, called his first year in Albany and the overall political year a success.

He gave much of the credit to Governor Andrew Cuomo “who was very impressive in his performance” in his timely balancing of New York’s 10 billion dollar budget, although Braunstein did express disappointment that the millionaire’s tax will expire at the end of year.The tax, which he and other Democrats fought to renew, was blocked by both Governor Cuomo and Senate Republicans.

“Sometimes it takes courage to recognize you’re not in the majority and you have to compromise,” he said. “We acted like adults and passed Governor Cuomo’s budget.

Braunstein said we should see another heated battle next year in Albany over the tax

Another showdown which may soon occur involves the controversial drilling method called hydrofracking which uses water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas from rock.While both the governor and state legislators expect the hydrofracking plan to revive upstate New York’s struggling economy, many environmentalists are worried about its safety.

Braunstein believes the hydrofracking plan will pass and will include rules that “they don’t drill anywhere near New York City’s water supply.”

Some of the year’s successes cited by Braunstein include an ethics reform package and a ban on the sale of the Meth-like drug known as “bath salts.” He is also pushing legislation which would require state colleges to immediately notify authorities of on-campus felonies anda bill to cap property taxeson co-ops at six percent.

Weprin also declared his support of the millionaires’ tax noting that “anyone making over a million a year can afford to pay that extra 1 percent.”

Weprin discussed his bill which seeks to curb water rate hikes by restructuring New York City’s Water Board. The bill, if passed, would end mayoral control of the board.

“As you can imagine, the mayor opposes the bill,” he said.

Weprin also discussed his new proposal to outlaw smoking in cars occupied by passengers under the age of 16 and an “adoptee bill of rights” which would grant adoptees access to their birth certificates when they reach 18.

He concluded his talk by thanking the community for their support during his campaign for the 9th District’s Congressional seat which he lost to Republican Bob Turner by a narrow margin.“I just wanna thank everybody that wished me well,” Weprin said.

“It was about seven weeks, but it felt like seven years, he chuckled.

Both Braunstein and Weprin gave hearty thanks to the 111th Precinct for its responsiveness and active partnership building.

Assemblymembers address 111th Precinct


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

“For the first time in five years, people think that New York is headed in the right direction.”

That’s the word from Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, who spoke at the 111th Precinct Community Council meeting on Tuesday, October 4. Both Braunstein and Assemblymember David Weprin discussed various hot-button policy issues as well as bills they have passed, and are pushing to pass, in Albany.

Braunstein, a lifelong Bayside resident, called his first year in Albany and the overall political year a success.

He gave much of the credit to Governor Andrew Cuomo “who was very impressive in his performance” in his timely balancing of New York’s 10 billion dollar budget, although Braunstein did express disappointment that the millionaire’s tax will expire at the end of year.The tax, which he and other Democrats fought to renew, was blocked by both Governor Cuomo and Senate Republicans.

“Sometimes it takes courage to recognize you’re not in the majority and you have to compromise,” he said. “We acted like adults and passed Governor Cuomo’s budget.

Braunstein said we should see another heated battle next year in Albany over the tax

Another showdown which may soon occur involves the controversial drilling method called hydrofracking which uses water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas from rock.While both the governor and state legislators expect the hydrofracking plan to revive upstate New York’s struggling economy, many environmentalists are worried about its safety.

Braunstein believes the hydrofracking plan will pass and will include rules that “they don’t drill anywhere near New York City’s water supply.”

Some of the year’s successes cited by Braunstein include an ethics reform package and a ban on the sale of the Meth-like drug known as “bath salts.” He is also pushing legislation which would require state colleges to immediately notify authorities of on-campus felonies anda bill to cap property taxeson co-ops at six percent.

Weprin also declared his support of the millionaires’ tax noting that “anyone making over a million a year can afford to pay that extra 1 percent.”

Weprin discussed his bill which seeks to curb water rate hikes by restructuring New York City’s Water Board. The bill, if passed, would end mayoral control of the board.

“As you can imagine, the mayor opposes the bill,” he said.

Weprin also discussed his new proposal to outlaw smoking in cars occupied by passengers under the age of 16 and an “adoptee bill of rights” which would grant adoptees access to their birth certificates when they reach 18.

He concluded his talk by thanking the community for their support during his campaign for the 9th District’s Congressional seat which he lost to Republican Bob Turner by a narrow margin.“I just wanna thank everybody that wished me well,” Weprin said.

“It was about seven weeks, but it felt like seven years, he chuckled.

Both Braunstein and Weprin gave hearty thanks to the 111th Precinct for its responsiveness and active partnership building.

Politics Aside: Wheel of Redistricting Fortune


| RHornak@queenscourier.com

Every 10 years the federal government orders a new census to be taken, and based on the shifts in population, new lines are drawn for legislative districts all across the country for federal, state and local offices. It’s one of the most basic and most important aspects of politics, and perhaps the most misunderstood and certainly the most unnoticed. Few people ever realize the process has taken place.

It’s like the wheel of fortune. Politicians spin the wheel and what district you end up in may be a matter of random chance. But elected officials are also known to push for district lines that favor their reelection, regardless of how ridiculous their district may look. You could give a standard Rorschach test using many of the districts drawn in New York.

This has led many people to call for a more non-partisan redistricting process, where legislative lines are drawn by people without a political agenda, and instead of looking at the electorates political leanings, they judge the voting base on criteria like common community, ethnicity and other demographic measures to bunch people into homogenous districts with shared values.

But isn’t that just a political agenda by another name? And how are the people to be chosen who will eventually be charged with drawing those fairer lines? Is there truly a way to divorce this process from politics?

Ed Koch has made this a marquee issue for 2011, and has many legislators lined up with him calling for reform. Even Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for a new, non-partisan system, and has pledged to veto any lines drawn this year that are not done in a non-partisan manor.

Unfortunately, the only proposal so far is to have a group appointed by the top elected officials in the state, the exact same people we are supposedly trying to take this power away from. In other words, it would be a sham system, but one where the governor would now have players at the table, possibly tilting the balance away from evenly split to which ever party holds the statehouse at that time.

Proponents are also saying that now is the time, or we will have to wait ten years before this opportunity comes around again. However, patience is a virtue in matters like this, where we need to make sure we get it right the first go-round. Changing the system for change sake isn’t just careless, but in this case it could be reckless and could destroy the checks and balances that come from the two-party system we have now. To those who say the system can’t be any worse than what we currently have, I say think again.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party.

Queens GOP leadership in question


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

With the Queens political world already rattled, a storm has begun brewing on the horizon of the borough’s Republican Party.

Two organizational meetings were held on September 28, during which two different men claim to have been elected Queens County Republican GOP leader.

According to Robert Hornak, spokesperson for the Queens Republican Party, current chair Phil Ragusa was re-elected, receiving the support of every voter who attended his meeting – amounting to 62 percent of the total voting strength.
Former Councilmember Thomas Ognibene also claims he was elected at a meeting called by Bart Haggerty, who works for Councilmember Eric Ulrich, which was held on the same date and time as Ragusa’s gathering.

Hornak says that GOP Chair Ed Cox called to congratulate Ragusa on September 29, although Ognibene claims he received a similar phone call from Cox.

“Obviously this is an internal political dispute,” said Ognibene. “I believe I am the one that has been elected, and we submitted our certification of the election to the Board of Elections.”

The GOP leader is chosen by county committee members – elected officials in local parties – who frequently have state committee members hold proxy votes for them. In the September 13 Primary, the two party factions battled for a number of state committee member positions.

There were recent published reports that Ognibene would oppose Ragusa for GOP leader, although Hornak does not believe the challenge to be a legitimate one.

“We knew we were going to win, so they held another meeting to pretend they wouldn’t lose,” said Hornak. “They held a competing meeting without authorization. Bart Haggerty sent out a fraudulent notice saying he was the chair and called a meeting. Only the official chairman can call a meeting. This is all just nonsense to confuse people because they have lost.”

Ragusa’s campaign filed a restraining order that demanded the cancellation of the opposing meeting – a demand Haggerty and Ognibene ignored.

“They tried to take us to court today and tried to stop our meeting last night and couldn’t,” Ognibene said. “I guess we will just have to proceed and I’m sure there may be legal challenges. We were in court on September 29 and we will have to go to court on October 4.”

Ognibene says he is proceeding as if he was elected and will perform all the requirements of the GOP leader until a resolution is reached. He believes that Ragusa has been ineffective and has not done enough to advance the success of the borough’s Republican Party.

“Dealing with Mr. Ragusa is impossible,” said Ognibene. “They haven’t done anything and they haven’t supported any candidates. They are into self-aggrandizement instead of helping the Republican Party. He has done nothing to move the Republican Party forward. We have done it ourselves in southwest Queens.”

Ragusa says his opponent’s accusations are unjustified and unsupported, and that Ognibene’s interest in the position is for his own personal gain.

“We’ve run Bob Turner, Jane Deacy and even Ognibene himself,” said Ragusa. “Everyone that ran with the Republican designation ran because of us. In my four-and-a-half years we’ve run more candidates than they did in the last 10 years. We have done everything a party is supposed to do. I think these are blind accusations. I haven’t seen Mr. Ognibene at a county event since I’ve been chairman. He doesn’t do anything to support the county. I think he spends most of his time on a golf course.”

If the current hearing does not settle the dispute between the party’s two factions, Ragusa says his campaign will file a separate action to invalidate Ognebene’s filing with the Board of Elections.