Tag Archives: Queens GOP

Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa passes away at 74


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo


Phil Ragusa, chair of the Queens Republican Party, died Tuesday after a short battle with leukemia, party officials confirmed in a statement. He was 74.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our very distinguished Chairman, Phil Ragusa,” the statement said. “Chairman Ragusa will be remembered for his integrity and commitment to the democratic process and was viewed by many as not just a friend but a mentor.”

Ragusa died surrounded by family members, according to the statement.

His leadership survived a challenge to lead the county committee last year from former Congressman Bob Turner. Ragusa has been Queens GOP chairman since 2007.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of Phil Ragusa’s passing and I feel terribly for his family,” said Northeast Queens Republican Club President Kevin J. Ryan. “But if there’s a bright side, we have an opportunity to rebuild the Queens GOP and move forward together, following the procedures and giving every committee member a voice. I hope we all work together in his memory.”

Viewing hours will be held Thursday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Quinn-Fogarty Funeral Home, 162-14 Sanford Ave., Flushing.

 

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Lhota gets quiet backing from Queens GOP


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Joe Lhota has the support of the Queens County Republican Party, but the mayoral candidate may not have wanted a public endorsement announcement to be made.

According to a source, reported Crain’s New York Business, Lhota didn’t hold an endorsement press conference and asked the party not to issue a press release on the backing because his “camp did not want to highlight dissension in the Queens Republican Party and in other Republican circles by publicizing the endorsement.”

Queens GOP first vice chairman James McClelland said it was a question of “exactly how to roll out the endorsement” because Lhota’s schedule was so tight and “how the press release should be worded.”

The party sent The Courier the following statement from Chairman Phil Ragusa endorsing Lhota for mayor, which according to McClelland, was issued on Tuesday, October 22.

“As the Chairman of the Queens Republican Party, I am proud to announce our endorsement of Joe Lhota for Mayor. Joe is the only candidate who will preserve the gains we have seen over the last 20 years in safety, the economy and quality of life for all New Yorkers.  People should never forget what life was like throughout this city prior to 1994 when criminals held neighborhoods hostage and people were scared to leave their homes. We need Joe Lhota to lead this city through the challenging economic times ahead and we need a chief executive who is willing to make the difficult decisions to ensure New York remains the greatest city in the world. Queens Republicans will do whatever it takes to help Joe Lhota win this race to keep New York City the shining city it has become.”

Lhota spokesperson Jessica Proud also said the campaign “didn’t have time to do a press conference.” Proud said she did not know anything about the press release.

“We are happy to have the support of Queens Republicans,” she said.

 

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Turner, Ragusa both claim victory to lead Queens GOP


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photos

The Queens Republican Party civil war is not over, and Phil Ragusa did not reclaim his throne yet, his opponents say.

Both Ragusa and former Congressmember Bob Turner have declared themselves winners in the election to head the Queens GOP after a six hour contentious meeting on September 27.

According to Party officials, Ragusa won re-election as chair by 52 percent of votes cast by district leaders and state committee members. His challenger, Turner, garnered about 48 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

But Councilmember Eric Ulrich, an outspoken critic of Ragusa, said Turner in fact had higher tallies than reported and had the support of “a clear majority” of voters.

There was no independent monitor in the room to count the votes, he said, and the Party’s leadership had thrown out valid proxies.

“The county’s members are using fuzzy math,” Ulrich said. “Their attempts to disqualify the proxy votes of duly elected county committee members are shameful. When every single vote is counted, it is clear that Bob Turner is the chairman.”

Both Turner and Ragusa have submitted certificates of election with the state and city Board of Elections.
Ragusa released a statement, saying he had been declared the “clear winner.”

“I am honored and humbled by the show of support given to me by Queens County Committee and State Committee members,” he said. “I will continue to lead the party honorably and faithfully and will work to unify the party so that the

Queens GOP continues to grow and become even stronger in the future.”

Turner said he was confident court litigations over the next few weeks would find him victorious.

“We know we won,” Turner said. “This is going to have to be solved at a different level.”

A similar internal battle occurred in 2011, when both Ragusa and former Councilmember Tom Ognibene claimed victory, though Ognibene was later defeated.

Ulrich, an insurgent of the Queens GOP, has long called for Turner to take over Party leadership, especially after a bombshell corruption scandal emerged this April.

Queens GOP Vice Chair Vince Tabone and Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran were among a handful of officials indicted in a bribery scheme to get Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith on the GOP mayoral primary ticket.

Shortly after Tabone resigned from his post, more than a dozen Republican State Committee members wrote Ragusa a letter, asking him to step down, too, and allow Turner to take over.

The county boss, who was not accused of any wrongdoing, stayed on and won re-election earlier this month to his district leader post, beating back challenger and Ulrich ally Sal Bacarella.

Others elected to the Queens GOP include Robert Beltrani as executive vice chair and James McClelland as first vice chair. McClelland served as chief of staff to Councilmember Peter Koo and recently left to work for State Senator Simcha Felder.

 

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Republican Arcabascio to run for Borough President


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

An Astoria technology professional is eyeing a Borough Hall run as a Republican, making the race for borough president a little tighter.

Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio confirmed his candidacy and expects to receive county endorsement soon.

Arcabascio, who ran his own technology company for 13 years, made his debut in the political world last year when he ran an unsuccessful race against State Senator Michael Gianaris for District 12.

Now, looking to represent the whole borough, Arcabascio said he wants to bring his experience as the only non-elected official to the table.

“I haven’t been caught up in politics for my whole career,” he esaid.

A product of Jackson Heights, Arcabascio, 52, will face one of six Democrats vying for the spot: Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Peter Vallone Jr., State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella, former Councilmember and former Assemblymember Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

The Dems will face off in a September 10 primary.

Arcabascio, who nabbed the GOP endorsement for Senate last year, expects to pick it back up for borough president. Queens Republican chair Phil Ragusa said the candidate is going through the screening process for the endorsement, and a formal announcement should come soon.

With his background in technology, Arcabascio said he is open to bringing more of the industry’s jobs to the borough, especially in western areas such as Long Island City and Maspeth.

“We have a lot of empty factories in Queens,” he said. “One of the things I believe would be my responsibility as the number one cheerleader for Queens is to get businesses here.”

 

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Halloran dropping re-election bid amid federal charges


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

DAN HALLORAN

With an uphill legal battle underway, Councilmember Dan Halloran will not to run for re-election later this year, widening an already crowded race for his seat.

A source close to Halloran originally confirmed the embattled legislator is withdrawing from the race.

“Regrettably, I must now focus my attention on clearing my name and restoring my reputation, while I continue to discharge my sworn duties as a member of the New York City Council,” Halloran said in a statement. “After much thought, I have concluded that it is impossible for me to properly do these things and take on the enormous demands of a political campaign, so I will not to pursue another term in the Council.”

Halloran has maintained his innocence on federal corruption charges alleging he helped a state legislator try to buy his way onto the Republican mayoral ballot. Halloran entered a “not guilty” plea in court last week.

Several Halloran staffers, including his chief of staff and his legislative director, resigned in the days and weeks after Halloran was arrested on April 2. Federal prosecutors accuse Halloran of taking $20,000 in bribes and arranging payouts for GOP bosses in Queens and the Bronx with the aim of getting Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith the Republican mayoral nomination.

Halloran started focusing on his re-election campaign in District 19 after losing a congressional election for the newly-drawn Congressional District 6 last year. Some political insiders viewed him as a long shot and he had trouble raising funds.

Democratic primary candidate former Assemblymember John Duane, Paul Graziano, Paul Vallone and Austin Shafran announced their candidacies for the District 19 seat prior to Halloran’s arrest last month. Chrissy Voskerichian, Halloran’s former chief of staff, filed papers with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.

Several calls were placed to Voskerichian for comment.

But since then, fellow Republicans have begun to eye the seat. Dennis Saffran, a Douglaston attorney, announced his candidacy last week. The move, backed by the Queens GOP, will likely force a primary.

Since his arrest, Halloran has also come under media scrutiny for an alleged affair with a former staffer while Halloran was still married.

The New York Post subsequently reported Halloran was having an affair with a former intern. The intern was reportedly in Halloran’s home during his early morning arrest. Because Halloran has not immediately stepped down, he is still open to a misconduct investigation by the council on sexual misconduct allegations reported earlier this week.
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Ex-councilmember Anthony Como replaces indicted Queens GOP vice chair Vince Tabone


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Former Councilmember Anthony Como will become the new executive vice chair of the Queens GOP, replacing indicted attorney Vince Tabone.

GOP chair Phil Ragusa confirmed Como would be taking over, saying the former city legislator would be a good fit.

“I know Anthony for a long time,” Ragusa said. “He was our City Council candidate we ran against Liz Crowley. I had extensive conversations with him.”

Ragusa said the agreement to install Como was mutual. His experience as an elected official would make him a good fit for the party, he said.

“I think he’s going to do a fine job,” Ragusa said. “He knows the political process like I know the political process.”

Tabone was arrested on April 2 in connection with charges that he took bribe money to help get State Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, on the mayoral ticket as a Republican.

GOP Councilmember Dan Halloran is also accused of accepting $20,000 in bribes to sway party chairs to sign off on Smith’s Republican run.

Como served in the City Council for about six months, replacing disgraced Councilmember Dennis Gallagher in June 2008. He lost the general election to now-Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley for District 30 in December of that year.

He previously served as commissioner of the Queens Board of Elections, and then president of the New York City Board of Elections. He also worked as an assistant district attorney and was chief counsel to former State Senator Serphin Maltese.

In 2010, he made an unsuccessful bid at unseating incumbent State Senator Joseph Addaboo in District 15.

“I look forward to working with Chairman Ragusa to strengthen the organization to ensure that NYC has representation on both sides of the aisle,” Como said in a statement. “I will be contacting our district leaders, party members, and loyal Republicans to let them know that we are energized, motivated and moving in a direction in which we can all be proud.”

When asked if Ragusa believes Como and his years of government experience would breathe new life into the party, the chair said the GOP was still strong and functioning.

“We’re all here,” Ragusa said. “We’re working hard. Queens County is going to survive.”

Ragusa said he has not spoken to Tabone, who was arraigned in federal court yesterday.

The Queens GOP also appointed: Robert Beltrani, first vice chair; Anthony Carollo, vice chair; Deborah Heinichen, vice chair;  Samiha Makawi, recording secretary;  James McClelland and Pierre Alcantara, members at large

Leaders call for changing of the guard in Queens GOP


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photos

Former Republican Councilmember Thomas Ognibene says there needs to be a change-up in the Queens GOP after years of infighting and what he called a negative influence by former vice chair Vince Tabone.

“I’ve believed for the last three to four years that it [leadership] had to be changed,” said Ognibene, who served in the Council from 1991 to 2001 and was the minority leader.

Tabone is charged with accepting $40,000 in bribe money to sign the Wilson Pakula certificate, to greenlight State Senator Malcolm Smith as a Republican for mayor. He resigned as vice chair on Wednesday, April 3, a day after his arrest.

Phil Ragusa currently chairs the Queens GOP.

The ideal person to replace Ragusa if he were to step down, Ognibene and others have said, would be former Congressmember Bob Turner, who lost a Republican U.S. Senate primary last summer and whose congressional district was cut up thanks to redistricting.

On calls to step down, Ragusa said he does not plan on giving up his position, as he’s not linked to the charges.

“We’re just moving ahead,” he said. “One person should not be able to affect the whole Queens GOP.”

Ognibene, now practicing law on Long Island, said the allegation that Tabone frisked a cooperating witness for a microphone was proof he was up to no good.

“That’s evidence of a guilty conscious,” Ognibene said.

Ragusa and Ognibene came into a leadership battle two years ago when a sect of the party voted to elect the latter as the GOP chair. A separate pact voted for Ragusa at the same time, with a judge finally ruling that Ragusa was rightful leader of the party.

While he was saddened by the allegations against Councilmember Dan Halloran, Ognibene said the alleged actions of some shouldn’t reflect on the GOP as a whole and “the Party will go on.”

A replacement for Tabone has not yet been named, Ragusa said.

“We’re going through our process and we haven’t named anybody right now,” he said.

 

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Constituents, community leaders react to Smith, Halloran arrest


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photos

Those represented by State Senator Malcolm Smith and those by Councilmember Dan Halloran are weighing in on the scandal that alleges the two tried to rig the upcoming mayoral election.

Despite the charges, Smith’s neighbors in St. Albans called the senator a morally sound leader.

“I’ve known the family for years, and they’ve always been good to me,” said a friend, who did not want to be named. “As a neighbor, he’s treated me well and that’s all I know.”

Constituent India Holloway said Smith is held to a higher standard.

“He’s a senator, he knows what’s right,” she said. “He’s supposed to be an upstanding citizen. He represents all of us. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, and he should uphold that.”

Residents of northeast Queens, which Halloran represents a bulk of, have mixed reactions to the charges against the councilmember.

Malba Civic Association President Alfredo Centola said he wanted the Queens GOP to push for a Republican candidate to challenge Halloran in a primary for the upcoming District 19 election. Regardless of the charges, Centola, a registered Republican, said he didn’t think the councilmember should drop out of the race.

“I believe in the innocent until proven guilty,” Centola said. “I don’t think [Halloran dropping out] is a fair request at this point. But the GOP needs to save face.”

Smith was elected president of the State Senate in 2010, when the Democrats took the majority of the Chamber for the first time in nearly 45 years. As president, and without a Lieutenant Governor in New York at the time, Smith was in a position to take over the state, had anything happened to then-Governor David Paterson.

The Republican Minority ended up leading a coup to take over the Senate in 2009 when it recruited two freshman Democratic senators, Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, Jr., to switch allegiances. Smith was able to retain power, however, by forcing the two renegades back to their side of the aisle.

In an ironic twist, Smith announced last year that he would join the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and effectively helped put a tandem leadership in between the IDC and Republicans.

Now that Smith has been stripped of his IDC roles, a Senate colleague said it would be easier to get legislation on the floor, but, under a tougher Republican leadership, passing issues such as campaign finance reform and reproductive rights would be harder.

Reverend Floyd Flake, senior pastor of the Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York and a former congressmember, who helped launch Smith’s political career, said he was surprised when he heard the news.
“[I was] more than shocked I think,” said Flake.

The former lawmaker added he’s placed several calls to Smith’s home since the arrest and is still waiting to hear back from the embattled senator.

Halloran, who was believed to have been a former cop, but was only a cadet, made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican for the newly-drawn Congressional District 6, but ultimately lost to now-Congressmember Grace Meng.

During his tenure, Halloran made waves in his first year by accusing the Department of Sanitation of a work slowdown during the 2010 Blizzard that crippled the city for days. An inquiry by the Department of Investigation, however, turned up no organized slowdown of work.

Halloran, reportedly facing financial difficulties because of his 2010 divorce, his mortgage and a 2005 promissory note to the woman from whom he bought his house, has been endorsed for his re-election by several fire and police unions, including the Police Captains Endowment Association (PCEA). Roy Richter, president of PCEA, said the union hasn’t decided whether or not to revoke its backing.

— With Additional Reporting by Maggie Hayes

 

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EXCLUSIVE: FBI questioned Queens pols last year over GOP probe


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photos

Councilmember Eric Ulrich and ex-Congressmember Bob Turner were two of many Queens leaders questioned in the FBI’s probe into the county’s GOP last year, The Courier has learned.

“At some point during this investigation, I was questioned by the FBI, as were many other people,” said Ulrich, 28. “I told them what I knew on firsthand knowledge. I also told them what I thought was hearsay.”

Many in the southern Queens district, including former district leaders and candidates, were questioned in person by FBI agents last year into dealings with the party, Ulrich said.

“It’s a federal crime to lie to an FBI agent. I told them the truth or what I knew to be true. What I didn’t know at the time was that there already was an investigation into the Queens County Republican Party,” he said.

The agency launched its investigation into the party last May amid allegations Board of Elections employees may have used their positions to further their careers as political consultants, the New York Post reported.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, Councilmember Dan Halloran, Queens County GOP vice chair Vincent Tabone and Bronx County GOP chair Joseph Savino were part of a group of six officials arrested by the FBI yesterday for conspiring to rig the mayoral election, authorities said.

Smith, a registered Democrat, needed consent from three of the city’s five GOP county chairmen to appear on the Republican ballot for city’s 2013 mayoral election.

He allegedly bribed Tabone and Savino with $40,000 in cash payouts for their support, according to the Southern District U.S. Attorney and FBI.

Halloran is accused of setting up meetings between Smith and county leaders and negotiating the bribes. He allegedly pocketed nearly $21,000 in cash in exchange for his help, officials said.

“I had known for a long time that Vince Tabone was a corrupt person and that he was involved in illegal activity,” Ulrich said. “But I never thought in a million years I would wake up one morning and read about Dan Halloran being implicated in a crime like this. The Dan Halloran that I knew has been a very honest person that works very hard.”

The lawmaker, who did not disclose further details of the investigation, claims Tabone solicited money in the past in exchange for county support.

Ulrich said he cautioned Halloran — his only other Queens GOP colleague in the Council — to stay away from county leaders.

“I had warned Dan a million times. I said these are bad people, and he agreed with me. That’s why I’m so shocked,” Ulrich said. “Dan knew these people were unscrupulous, notorious bad apples.”

Party chair Phil Ragusa called on Tabone to resign, pending the outcome of legal proceedings, according to a statement released by the Queens GOP.

But Ulrich said the “compromised county” needs Ragusa to step down as well and elect Turner as their new leader.

Ragusa has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but Ulrich said that could easily change during the course of the probe.

“Who’s to say what Vince Tabone and others might tell the FBI now that they’ve been arrested,” Ulrich said. “I think they’ll tell everything they know to save their own skin.”

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese kicks off mayoral campaign


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Albanese for Mayor 2013

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese, who recently announced he’s running for mayor as an independent Democrat, has high hopes for improving public safety and the city’s education system.

Albanese, who represented mostly Bay Ridge for 14 years, said he was building a campaign based on voter needs and not special interest groups.

“We’re building a grass-roots campaign around the city,” Albanese, 63, told The Courier. “I want to get to City Hall with a broad base of support.”

Albanese spent 11 years as a teacher and said he would partner with education colleges throughout the city and strengthen the student-teacher program if elected mayor.

Albanese said he would hire 3,800 new police .officers for patrols in the outer boroughs where crime might be ignored or under-reported. “If you have nobody on patrol…these things can drive people out of neighborhoods,” he said.

For Queens, Albanese said he would focus on ensuring continued development is done properly, and the borough recovers and rebuilds after Sandy.

All options and effects should be explored before officially jumping on a project such as the proposed Major League Soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. “[It] could really be a positive thing,” he said. “But we have to balance that with the parkland.”

Despite a lengthy term on the council, Albanese has not been in public office for about 15 years and is running in a primary against many Democratic incumbents. Some opponents include: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson.

On the Republican front:

Less than a week after his announcement, and after a long-expected endorsement, Republican Mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis picked up the backing of the Queens GOP on Friday, February 1.

“John Catsimatidis has the right experience as an independent businessman to lead New York and solve our city’s problems with common sense,” said party chair Phil Ragusa in a statement. The grocery store magnet is one of only a handful of candidates whose career hasn’t been in public service. Upon his endorsement, Catsimatidis noted his father worked as a bus boy at Riccardo’s in Astoria.

“I am very pleased to accept the Queens County Republican Party’s official endorsement,” Catsimatidis said. “My father who came over from the old country when I was just six months of age worked hard for our family and taught me the value of hard work and because he worked hard we never knew we were poor.”

 

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15th State Senate District endorsements rolling in


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

In the race for the 15th State Senate District, candidates have been garnering certain key endorsements.

Congressmember Bob Turner endorsed City Councilmember Eric Ulrich — as the Ozone Park native will face off in a primary against former mayoral aide Juan Reyes. The winner of the race will then go up against incumbent State Senator Joseph Addabbo.

 

 

 

 

 

“Eric is part of a new era of leadership that will make state government work again,” Turner said. “I have the great fortune of serving alongside him and I’ve seen first-hand his commitment to the community. He understands the kitchen-table issues that Queens families are facing and he is by far the most qualified candidate to bring New York out of its economic decline and put people back to work.”

Both represent the same area in their respective government bodies.

This endorsement comes after the 27-year-old councilmember got backing from the Queens Conservative party last week, and then the Independent Pary on June 4 — an endorsement given to Addabbo in 2010.

In order to run against Addabbo, however, Ulrich must first beat Reyes, a formal mayoral aid, in the June 26 primary. Reyes, a Forest Hills lawyer, received an endorsement from the Queens GOP.

The GOP choice has not affected the Ulrich campaign; rather, its members say a primary would strengthen the camp. Supporters of Ulrich are confident he will come out the victor of the primary, said Bill O’Reilly, his campaign spokesperson.

“Sometimes a primary can work out the kinks in a campaign,” O’Reilly said. “It’s a good practice-run for a general election.”

Ulrich — whose current city council district comprises a big chunk of the senate district — has the support of many party members in his zone, which includes Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Lindenwood, O’Reilly said.

“We think that’ll be an advantage going into election day,” he said. “Both in the primary and the general election.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo has received endorsements from the United Federation of Teachers and other unions. While it is still early in the election, Addabbo said he has been focusing on business in Albany and meeting with his district’s constituents.

Gianaris to face GOP newcomer


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Queens GOP has turned to an independent in hopes of unseating Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chair Michael Gianaris in the 12th District.

The borough’s Republican Party announced its unanimous endorsement of Aurelio Antonio “Tony” Arcabascio for State Senate on May 5. Arcabascio, a senior level technology professional for 25 years, is also seeking the support of the Conservative Party.

“Tony has the independence and commitment to represent this northwestern Queens district with integrity and intelligence,” said GOP Chair Phil Ragusa. “Tony as a business executive and technology professional is a ‘can do’ problem solver who can help tackle the problems our community and state are facing.”

Ragusa said Arcabascio will aim to create jobs and lower the tax burden on middle class families, seniors and small business owners. The GOP chair also accused Gianaris of focusing on raising funds for himself and the DSCC rather than constituent services and improving the economy.

“As an independent I am really honored that the Republican Party will support me for State Senate and agrees with my focus on jumpstarting the economy, creating jobs, improving schools and healthcare and reforming government to make it more transparent and accountable,” said Arcabascio, who was raised in Astoria and Jackson Heights. “I agree with Chair Ragusa that Queens residents are tired of the relentless partisanship of my opponent and will be looking for practical solutions to the challenges we face.”

Gianaris responded to the accusations by defending his efforts to improve the 12th District since being elected to the State Senate in 2010.

“I am incredibly proud of the work I have done representing western Queens in the state legislature,” Gianaris said. “From shutting down the state’s biggest polluters to supporting our local schools to promoting local businesses that create much needed jobs, together we have made a big difference improving people’s lives. I look forward to once again putting my record before the voters this November and continuing to serve my neighborhood for another term.”