Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2012 Sat, 07 Dec 2019 17:00:57 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) City Government’s Most Outspoken Republican on De Blasio, Trump, and the Future of the GOP in New York https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8746-city-government-s-most-outspoken-republican-on-de-blasio-trump-and-the-future-of-the-gop-in-new-york https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8746-city-government-s-most-outspoken-republican-on-de-blasio-trump-and-the-future-of-the-gop-in-new-york spcojo borelli

Joe Borelli, center (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


Joe Borelli, the Republican City Council Member from Staten Island’s South Shore, has made a name for himself as one of the most vociferous pro-Donald Trump supporters in the president’s home city. But, Borelli is a realist and knows that Trump is unpopular in very-Democratic New York, and that the Republican Party has a lot of work to do to regain a foothold in city or state government after several disappointing elections.

During a wide-ranging interview on the Max and Murphy podcast, Borelli said the New York GOP, now under new leadership, must focus on rebuilding locally around the state and looked ahead to the party’s chances in the 2020 state and federal elections, the 2021 New York City mayoral race, and the 2022 state elections that will include the next race for governor. He also touched on his own admittedly quixotic campaign for New York City Public Advocate, where he’s running this year in a special election to unseat incumbent Jumaane Williams, what the party’s message should be, and how the New York GOP should approach Trump’s long shadow.

“The new chairman, Nick Langworthy, would do a better job by focusing on the county executive races, the county legislative races, where we can dominate,” Borelli said of the new state chair, when asked about the next race for governor. “Having those competitive races upstate, with good candidates, has an effect on the gubernatorial race.”

For governor, “The Republican Party needs someone in the batter’s box, someone who can hit home runs,” Borelli said, meaning someone with star power who can overcome the daunting voter registration odds that are better for the GOP statewide than in New York City, but still create a steep uphill battle for the first Republican statewide win since Governor George Pataki won a third term in 2002.

The party needs to keep building a bench, but also needs to find candidates for governor and mayor that can far outperform the baseline numbers, Borelli acknowledges. Many point to recapturing control of the state Senate as a pressing need, while Langworthy has said his top goal is winning the 2022 governor’s race.

It’s certainly not only upstate that should matter to New York Republicans, for if they only dominate there, they will still be out of power when it comes to the governor’s office or even the state Senate, which had been the GOP’s last statewide stronghold until last November’s elections swung it to Democrats by a fairly wide margin.

Citing the special election that will likely be called early next year to replace current Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who is in line to become Queens District Attorney, Borelli said that it’s “a seat where Republicans have not ran credibly in the past. I think identifying those seats where we can run a good race, where it’s worth it to have a Republican on the ballot, is one of the things that we could certainly do.”

Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich, who along with Borelli and Staten Island’s Steven Matteo make up the Council’s only three Republicans in 51 seats, is expected to run in the special election. Ulrich is significantly more moderate than Borelli and has been highly critical of Trump, but many Republicans acknowledge they must embrace candidates like Ulrich to have a chance in urban and suburban areas.

“Giving each locality or region of the state the autonomy to make these kind of party direction decisions is something Nick Langworthy has to do,” Borelli said.

Borelli believes Democrats in New York City have created an opening for moderate Republican candidates.

“If there are people who are disaffected with progressive activists, I’m not saying they’re gonna be Republicans, but they might be New York City Republicans. They might entertain a Mike Bloomberg again. They’re not gonna entertain me for mayor,” he said, “and I don’t expect them to. I don’t think that’s a realistic proposition. But they might entertain a moderate mayoral candidate at some point who is more back-to-basics.”

Borelli said that he’s seen some evidence that this is already happening, especially with voters of color. “The Republican Party has long talked about rebuilding and attracting new voters. I think that, not since we’ve had Mayor de Blasio has there been the actual opportunity to do so. The mayor is the most uniting mayor we’ve ever had – no matter where you go, people don’t seem to like him…He has opened up opportunities for us to attract new groups.”

The Republican Party should “look at [voters of color] as who they are outside of their ethnic identity, and try to find common ground where they care about,” according to Borelli. He cited controversial local issues such as the SHSAT, school discipline, property taxes, and the minimum wage where Republicans could find common ground with Democratic voters, no matter whether those voters are “black, brown, or purple.”

Most important to Borelli is simply reasserting the Republican Party as the main alternative to Democrats in New York.

“When you talk about opposition to Cuomo, most often, you in media, you’re talking about his left flank, and you’re talking about the Working Families [Party], and some labor unions,” Borelli said. “The GOP under [former Chairman Ed] Cox, the failure was not to offer a viable alternative. Even if a lot of voters don’t think that alternative is great, I think the bigger failure was not being the major opposition party in the state.”

“Bringing the state GOP as the opposition group, so that disaffected people gravitate this way instead of that way, I think is more important than hedging our opinion on any issue,” Borelli added. [LISTEN to the full interview]

A Race Borelli’s “Not Gonna Win”
Amidst his many proposals for Republican revitalization, Borelli also spoke of his own upcoming November election against Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, for Public Advocate -- a race about which Borelli has no delusions.

“I’m running in a race I’m not gonna win, let’s be frank,” Borelli said. “This is a really uphill fight, it’s a 7:1 or 6½:1 Democratic enrollment, so I’m doing this because I enjoy doing it, and I enjoy beating a drum a little differently than the other guy.”

The big difference, Borelli says, is that he would actually be a public advocate who holds the mayor accountable, whereas Williams is more aligned with de Blasio, even if Williams has been critical of the mayor at times.

Borelli wants to give what is currently a relatively powerless office far more influence. “The charter doesn’t say much of must, the Public Advocate must, right? It doesn’t give them the great seal of the exchequer, or something like that. It’s no guidance. The Public Advocate may do this, should do that, could do that.” 

Among the changes Borelli has proposed are to give the office oversight of the Department of Investigations and a seat on several powerful boards, such the MTA’s. 

“If that doesn’t happen” Borelli said, “then I would support…revising the office itself, and that would mean to eliminate it.”  

“The only function of the job is to be a bully pulpit and direct your bullseye...on the mayor,” Borelli said. “And I think it’s better to have someone who fundamentally disagrees with most stuff the mayor does.”

“As the Public Advocate, I could do a pretty good job of treating [Mayor de Blasio] as my punching bag,” he says, echoing a message Ulrich used in the February nonpartisan special election, that Williams won, where Ulrich came in second. The only merchandise that Borelli’s website is currently selling is a series of t-shirts and stickers featuring de Blasio’s face and a red line crossing it.

Borelli acknowledges that he’s having a hard time raising significant funds for the campaign, or even asking for them, and that Republicans generally concentrate on mayoral races in New York City, at the expense of others like for public advocate or comptroller.

“I’m not always right. I’m OK admitting that,” he said. “But I think someone should be addressing things from an alternate point of view and offering an alternative vision for the city.”

Donald Trump’s Long Shadow
Borelli, who was co-chair of Trump’s campaign team in the 2016 New York primary, said that he’s sticking by Trump despite his many controversies.

Asked about how he reconciles support for some of Trump’s policies and judicial appointments, why he isn’t among the conservatives who say they simply can’t support Trump because of his morals, ethics, and behavior, Borelli said, “In my brain I can separate the two.”

“When I’ve disagreed with the president on both policy and on personality, I’m not someone who toes the line,” Borelli continued. “They have not asked me to be on the advisory board for 2020…probably because I don’t toe the line all the time. I think you measure every president on the balance of whether they’re doing good or bad.”

He said Trump’s policies are good for New York, especially economically. “On balance, a lot of us just can ignore the things we disagree with.”

Is he OK telling kids Trump is the moral leader of the country and someone they should look up to, Borelli hedged, saying there’s something about the office of the presidency to respect, and said “I’m not as offended as most people on most things,” he said.

“We’re sick of being called racists,” he said of Trump supporters. “Do you know how many times a day I get called a racist? It’s almost mind-numbing...It’s almost entrenching on our side, when you get called deplorable, and a racist, and every -ism imaginable, because you have a difference of opinion. It almost entrenches you into that bubble.”

After seeing 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro hedge on his support for Trump, Borelli said he wishes people in his party would be more direct in their opinions on the President, whatever they may be.

“Just be pretty brutally honest about how you feel. If you don’t like Trump, say it. If you like Trump, say it, and come what may.” He added, “I’m not saying there wouldn’t be an electoral cost to it.”

Molinaro repeatedly stated throughout his campaign that he had not voted for Trump (he said he wrote in former New York Congressional Rep. Chris Gibson), but was mostly hesitant to explain why or criticize Trump during the campaign, and Cuomo repeatedly tied Molinaro to Trump.

In spite of his strong support for Trump, Borelli characterized himself as a “moderate.” He clarified, “I think I would be billed as a conservative” by others. “Although, hey, I swing some ways on some issues.”

2020, 2021 and Beyond
2018 represented a drubbing for New York Republicans, with the party losing three Congressional seats and eight state Senate seats (along with the majority in both chambers). But according to Borelli, 2020 gives the party a clear chance to rebound.

“Four [state] Senate seats -- I think that’s a realistic goal,” Borelli said of how many seats Republicans can and should recapture next year, when the entire Legislature is on the ballot, along with Trump. “I think it’s a possibility. It still doesn’t bring us to the promised land, but I think that’s enough of a pendulum swinging back, and a check on sort of the movement of the far left, that it would build a better mousetrap for at least two years in the state.”

“I think,” he continued, “you’d have people like [Senate President] Andrea Stewart-Cousins saying, ‘let’s pump the brakes on some of the stuff that we’re doing, because it’s clearly not playing well in the Hudson Valley,’ for example.”

On the subject of Congress, Borelli’s predictions were even more specific. He singled out Max Rose, his home borough’s Democratic Congressman, as uniquely vulnerable.

“Yeah, 100%, [Max Rose is beatable],” Borelli said when asked if newcomer Rose could be defeated. “He’s certainly beatable on the ground level, and he’s certainly beatable in the metrics they consider in Washington. The resulting action of that is going to be a lot of money spent on each side. He’s really doing an incredible job raising money, credit where credit is due. It will be tough for whoever the Republican nominee is to beat him, but there’s a chance.”

The leading Republican in that race is Staten Island Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, whom Borelli did not mention by name, though he briefly criticized her 2017 mayoral campaign, and whom he has not endorsed. Borelli had given some consideration to joining the congressional race, but opted against it and ran for public advocate instead.

Borelli also raised several Upstate congressional seats he thinks Republicans can hold or retake, and said that after a tough 2018, having Trump at the top of the ticket in 2020 is likely to help certain Republican candidates.

Looking even further into the future, Borelli said he could see Molinaro running for governor again in 2022, when Cuomo is planning to seek a fourth term, but he also mentioned Congressional Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is attempting to win what is likely a tough reelection campaign next year, as someone he’d like to see consider a run for governor.

And Borelli predicted that Republicans may have to wait another six years to have a shot at the New York City mayor’s office. In 2021, he said, “there’s going to be so much attention, so much public financing, on the five or six, or however many it ends up being, Democratic candidates that it will be very difficult for a Republican to win. I say that with the full knowledge that I’ll be out there, probably supporting whoever we run, trying my best to get him or her elected, but it is an uphill race.”

In 2025, however, “when you have an incumbent who’s going to get beat up in a primary, and then you are the sole opposition person against them in the general, I think that’s an easier race.” He referenced Republicans beating Mayor David Dinkins in his bid for a second term in 1993, and said that in the future, the Republican pitch to voters in the city has to be about the cost of living and the cost of doing business.

“You can get very far when you have someone like Bill de Blasio, knocking Bill de Blasio,” Borelli said when asked about the Republican vision and pitch. “But you’re right; I think it always is going to be harder for conservatives to formulate a vision of the future, because in essence, conservatism is the preservation of the status quo. I don’t mean that in any racial or whatever ‘isms’ you want to throw at me, I mean that that’s the nature of the conservative mindset.”

As for his own 2021 plans, Borelli has a bold plan in mind. “I’ll say it right now: if I win for Public Advocate, I am running for mayor. Don’t ask, just pack your bags and come on the ride with me. I’m going to Gracie. If we somehow eke out this incredible win, then put me on the list.”

LISTEN to the full interview with Joe Borelli: Max & Murphy Podcast: The Future of the Republican Party in New York

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by Joey Fox, Gotham Gazette

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City Government’s Most Outspoken Republican on De Blasio, Trump, and the Future of the GOP in New York Sun, 18 Aug 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: The Future of the Republican Party in New York https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8738-max-murphy-podcast-future-new-york-republican-party-borelli https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8738-max-murphy-podcast-future-new-york-republican-party-borelli Joe Borelli

City Council Member Joe Borelli (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


August 14, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: The Future of the New York Republican Party

joe borelli wbai 150 pxCity Council Member Joe Borelli, a Staten Island Republican and strong supporter of President Donald Trump, joined the show to discuss his candidacy for Public Advocate and the present and future of the New York Republican Party.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: The Future of the Republican Party in New York Wed, 14 Aug 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Decades of Voter Registration Data Shows Tall Task for New York GOP's New Chair https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8656-party-registration-data-shows-tall-task-for-new-new-york-gop-chair https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8656-party-registration-data-shows-tall-task-for-new-new-york-gop-chair party registr

(photo: @NewYorkGOP)


The number of registered Republican voters in New York has been in decline, but that’s not news to the New York Republican State Committee, or its new leader. Neither is the fact that Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in New York since 2002, and in 2018 the party lost its last stronghold of state-level power when the state Senate was flipped by Democrats.

As the New York GOP held its annual convention in Albany on July 1 and ushered in a new state party chair, Nicholas Langworthy of Erie County, Langworthy and other Republican leaders pledged “the comeback starts now.”

One plank of Langworthy’s plan, which he outlined as he sought to win the state chair position from Ed Cox over the past several months, was to increase Republican voter registration across the state, in part by redeveloping a party infrastructure in all 62 counties.

But the task in front of Langworthy is especially large, brought into stark relief not only by the statewide drought and the fact that Democrats didn’t simply take the state Senate, but control 40 of the chamber’s 63 seats, but also by the realities of the voter registration numbers in New York.

As of February 1, among total registered voters in New York, the state Board of Elections shows that there were 6,396,223 registered Democrats and 2,826,284 registered Republicans, along with 738,747 voters registered with any of the other parties in the state (Green, Working Families, Conservative, Independence, etc.), plus 2,734,508 “unaffiliated” voters who are registered to vote, but not with a political party. (All numbers reflect both active and inactive registered voters.)

A look at how the state got to this point, starting about 20 years ago when Republican Governor George Pataki was beginning his second of three terms, shows the task in front of Langworthy and other New York Republican leaders. Pataki is the last Republican to win statewide in New York, winning his third term in 2002 -- but even then, Republicans were well behind Democrats in terms of voter enrollment in New York.

2 republicans vs democratsSince 1999, the percentage of Republicans among New York’s registered voters has declined from 29 percent to 22 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of registered Democrats has increased from 47 percent to 50 percent.

According to state Board of Elections numbers from April 1999, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 4,999,541 to 3,078,574.

At that point, Republicans outnumbered unaffiliated voters by nearly 1 million; 3,078,574 to 2,138,100.

Twenty years later, as of February 1 of this year, nearly as many voters are registered as unaffiliated as there are Republicans; with 2,734,508 unaffiliateds and 2,826,284 Republicans.

And if combined with the 485,037 voters registered with the Independence Party – a fringe party often mistaken by those registering to vote who want to be “independent” or unaffiliated with a party – unaffiliated voters outnumbered Republicans in New York as of February.

Over the last two decades, New York state’s voter rolls have increased by over 2 million, even as the state’s population has only increased by around 600,000. But despite this influx of new voters, the Republican Party has lost a net 250,000 members, while Democrats have gained 1,396,682 voters and there are 596,408 more unaffiliateds.

1 partisan share

Langworthy, the committee’s incoming chair, said enrollment is the party’s greatest challenge. Stopping the decline and shrinking the gap with Democrats is one of his top goals as chair.

“We are going to go across this country and find the best practices on voter registration and bring them to this state of New York,” he said during a GOP news conference in Albany on May 21, when it was formally announced he would be the next chair of the party. “It has to be done. We're going to close this gap. It's something that's going to take everyone's help to do.”

Langworthy didn’t specify what practices the party would use to close the gap, but he did mention the importance of reaching out to different groups of voters, especially communities of color, as a means for increasing membership.

“I will personally along with members of our party, staff, and membership will go out there and recruit,” Langworthy told Gotham Gazette following a June 18 news conference calling on the resignation of Mayor Bill de Blasio due to his focus on his presidential campaign. “We're going to do heavy outreach in Latino organizations and Asian-American organizations and African-American organizations, bringing all of our coalition groups to let them know that they are welcome in the doors of the Republican Party.”

3 republicans vs independents

He added that his larger mission is for Republicans to start winning again, namely through the 2022 gubernatorial election, when Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, plans to seek a fourth term. 

“My mission and goal is to get us to the point where a Republican occupies the second floor of the state Capitol,” Langworthy said at the May news conference, referring to the location of the gubernatorial offices. “And that will be our mission critical to put the infrastructure in place across this state in order to win a statewide election and put the Republican Party back in the win column there for the first time since 2002.”

Langworthy’s predecessor, Cox, announced in a press release on May 20 that he would join President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign as part of the finance team, and congratulated Langworthy on becoming the next chair after the two had a hard-fought battle for county leader votes.

Cox echoed Langworthy’s vision for Republicans to become the winning party and said Trump can make that happen.

“I think this president can bring in those Democratic voters and realign the party system where the Republican Party will be the majority party in the United States,” Cox said at the May press conference.

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by Caitlyn Rosen & Joey Fox

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by Joey Fox, Gotham Gazette

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by Caitlyn Rosen, Gotham Gazette
     

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Decades of Voter Registration Data Shows Tall Task for New York GOP's New Chair Mon, 08 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
A Big Mistake Atop the New York GOP https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8620-a-big-mistake-atop-the-new-york-gop https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8620-a-big-mistake-atop-the-new-york-gop gop atop oped

Nick Langworthy, left, with Donald Trump (photo: @NickLangworthy)


Anointing Erie County Republican leader Nicholas J. Langworthy as State Party Chair is an embarrassment for the New York GOP.

Under his leadership, Erie Republicans have been shut out of nearly every elected office countywide. They’ve lost the county legislature, lost Assemblymember Ray Walter, and lest we forget Congressional Rep. Chris Collins is still walking that long Green Mile towards resignation and life as a future convicted felon.

Recall, it was Langworthy’s last-minute bush-league back-door skulduggery (infamous Nixon lawyer Don Segretti would’ve used a different term) that saddled New York’s GOP with crazed alt-right racist Carl Paladino atop the 2010 statewide ticket, dooming down-ballot candidates in close races like former State Comptroller candidate Harry Wilson and former Attorney General candidate Dan Donovan.

Now, Langworthy’s slated to take over the State Party in July, and all he knows how to do is lose.

In his announcement speech on April 28, Langworthy pledged to “rebuild, retool, and revitalize” the Republican brand south of Poughkeepsie, but I doubt he has any real interest in or even comprehends the scope of the problem currently facing the Empire State GOP.

In the last election, Republican candidates running atop the party ticket scored 15% in New York City, 30% in Westchester, and 41% in Nassau – seven downstate counties that account for 51% of the statewide vote. Which means, Mr. Langworthy, if you’re going to “rebuild” then you’ve got to “retool” to win urban Democrats, a lot of urban Democrats, in an emotionally raw, hyper-partisan political environment.

Suburban women are abandoning the party in droves. Exit data from 2018 spells out pretty clearly you’re not going to win them back by preaching the gospel according to Donald. Meanwhile, according to Siena’s latest statewide study, more than 60% of New Yorkers across every demographic and in all three regions said under no circumstances would they vote to re-elect the president.

Which means you can kiss any halfhearted “revitalize” effort goodbye.

Outgoing State Party Chair Ed Cox came in after the Obama wave of 2008 decimated state and local parties. But after four years he took us from two members of Congress to nine, won both Westchester and Nassau County Executive races, won a State Senate majority, and bolstered party fundraising to the point where this past cycle, the State GOP reported raising a record total of $12 million.

And he didn’t have to kiss white supremacist backsides in order to do it either.

By transferring the party’s political power structure away from the financial focal point, and installing an ersatz executor with little knowledge or experience of what it takes to campaign in the five boroughs, the GOP is firing a shot into both its feet, setting itself alight, and crying out, “This is fine.”

Expect high-dollar donors to close their wallets, expect top-tier candidates below the Tappan Zee to take a pass on running, expect very little buy-in from many urban and suburban communities that the Republican Party under Donald Trump has its best interests at heart.

In a recent City Journal article, longtime political observer Bob McManus wrote that the New York State GOP has “nothing left to lose.” Au contraire, Bob. There’s still lots left to lose – local electeds downstate, county officers in the Hudson Valley, and what few remaining legislative incumbents we still have. However, Nick Langworthy is the wrong man at the wrong time to try to preserve it, never mind rehabilitating the party in time to recapture the State Senate ahead of redistricting, or breaking the long-standing statewide drought in 2022.

Republicans don’t need a State Party chair who triples down on a losing horse, is devoid of integrity, who lacks wisdom, and whose vision for the future aligns with alt-right extremists like Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Gavin McInnes.

No wonder traditional pro-business groups like the New York State Business Council and local Chambers of Commerce have been distancing themselves from the GOP in recent weeks and months. Trickle down Trumpism.

At the end of the day, we get the world we deserve, but if this is the future the party wants, then…dracarys.

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John William Schiffbauer is a political consultant and was Deputy Communications Director for the New York Republican State Committee from 2014-16. On Twitter @JWSGOP.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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A Big Mistake Atop the New York GOP Mon, 24 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Manhattan GOP Goes Full Trump, Ruining Chances for Years to Come https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8487-manhattan-gop-goes-full-trump-ruining-chances-for-years-to-come https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8487-manhattan-gop-goes-full-trump-ruining-chances-for-years-to-come usa trump maga

(photo: @RealDonaldTrump)


Well, it’s happened. The barbarians have finally sacked the city.

On February 1, Trump enthusiast Ian Walsh Reilly assumed the leadership of the Metropolitan Republican Club, one of the oldest Republican clubs in New York City. Like Trump, Ian’s the kind of guy who bumps elbows with high-profile racists and unrepentant misogynists like Gavin McInnes, founder of the alt-right nationalist group The Proud Boys.

Ian just couldn’t wait to get Gavin in front of his club’s membership last year, and this epic lapse in judgment resulted in a nearly 24-hour cycle of violence and vandalism – on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side no less.

Then, on April 20, Ian’s lickspittle lackey Gavin Wax and sidekick Vish Burra claimed top spots at the New York Young Republican Club. (Wax is currently facing criminal charges of Forcible Touching and Sexual Abuse, while Burra was charged with felony drug possession in 2015.)

These organizations form the backbone of the Manhattan GOP’s voter and volunteer base, and are now firmly under the control of Trumpist alt-right acolytes, which puts Manhattan Republican Party Chair Andrea Catsimatidis in a bit of a bind.

Trump lost Manhattan in the 2016 GOP Primary to John Kasich, and scored less than 10% of the vote borough-wide on Election Day. For a party organization tasked with recruiting candidates, raising money, and winning elections, I’m stumped as to what their endgame strategy is.

No serious New York City candidate will ever run on a Republican ticket with Trump, and no candidate who embraces Trump will ever win in the city (outside of Staten Island – and sometimes not even there).

Could the ascent of people like Wax, Burra, and Reilly be a sign that local County Committees and their ancillary groups have simply thrown in the towel on ever building a real party apparatus, and have instead opted to simply cash in on the rubes and dupes and Pizzagate pushers that comprise the monochromatic Trump coalition?

Sure seems like it.

If Trump wins re-election in 2020, his personality and policies will undoubtedly reshape the current Republican Party for many years to come. But if Trump is defeated, then the GOP, especially in urban areas, will have a unique opportunity to redefine what it means to be a Republican in the 21st Century.

However, those who embraced Trump, either half-heartedly or with bear hugs, won’t be able to make that case. Sorry, but Trump taint just don’t bleach.

New York City constitutes nearly half the statewide vote, and from day one, it’s been abundantly clear that Trump does not share the city’s values.

But until Manhattan and other borough Republicans disavow, disassociate, and condemn the president, a majority of city voters simply won’t give two cowpats about what ideas we have on public housing, higher education, infrastructure, jobs, student debt, and criminal justice reform.

If our leaders refuse to assert themselves at the grassroots level – or worse yet, co-opt the alt-right message, then the GOP in the Empire State is doomed.

We need our County Chairs and State Party officers to lead, to communicate to young people and veteran activists alike what a winning strategy and message look and sound like. Hint: it’s not Donald J. Trump.

But if they’re either unwilling or unable to do so, then perhaps the time has come for experienced operatives and establishment groups, who have so far largely stood on the sidelines and quietly seethed, to strike back with a vengeance in order to preserve the party of Teddy Roosevelt so that it won’t be spoken of in the same breath as ‘pussy’-grabbers, conspiracy theorists, and xenophobes.

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John William Schiffbauer is a political consultant, and was the Deputy Communications Director for the New York Republican State Committee from 2014 to 2016. On Twitter @JWSGOP.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Manhattan GOP Goes Full Trump, Ruining Chances for Years to Come Thu, 02 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Rebooting the Republican Party in New York City https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8122-rebooting-the-republican-party-in-new-york-city https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8122-rebooting-the-republican-party-in-new-york-city 03 29 18650 28 0030 1

Senator Marty Golden (photo via State Senate website)


The fall of State Senator Marty Golden and Congressional Rep. Dan Donovan should put the Brooklyn Republican Party on notice: there is a need for younger, more diverse candidates that can connect with the community, and provide unique solutions to problems plaguing our urban neighborhoods.

It’s no secret that New York City is a liberal bastion that has made it difficult for Republicans and the Republican Party to find an audience. However, that is just as much the fault of the local party apparatus as it is the tribalist politics of the five boroughs. The Brooklyn GOP has so far failed to reflect the people it’s trying to represent.

I agree with Republican Congressional Rep. Mia Love of Utah, recently defeated as she sought reelection, when she said, “Republicans never take minority communities into their home and citizens into their homes and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats and bureaucrats in Washington because they do take them home – or at least make them feel like they have a home.”

Today’s voters look to leaders who care about their needs. And to the vast majority of New York City voters, the Republican Party has become synonymous with callousness and corruption.

However, empathy and conservative principles are not mutually exclusive. If Republicans want to broaden our appeal among college-educated urban and suburban voters, we need to revisit George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism.

We need to fight for people, not abstract concepts.

The next generation of Republicans must reaffirm a better future for all. We must get back to basics and start reconnecting with local communities – speak their language (even literally) – and, for example, explain what we would do to fight residential displacement.

New York City Republicans need to reach out to minority communities and refocus party priorities on bipartisan issues that the Mayor, the City Council, and Albany have consistently dropped the ball on, from housing to education, criminal justice to healthcare.

We need a message that sets us apart, that moves us beyond the demagoguery of Donald J. Trump and provides solutions to problems plaguing so many New Yorkers.

If that means adopting some liberal ideas, or compromising in order to codify a kinder, more gentler society then that is exactly what we should do – and we absolutely can do it without sacrificing our core principles of fiscal probity, free enterprise, personal freedom, individual responsibility, and self-government.

According to the New York State Board of Elections, there are 3.5 million registered Democrats and 522,540 registered Republicans in New York City.

Time to face reality.

The GOP has a lot to offer, but we need to figure out what we’re offering in an urban environment like New York and we need to be consistent here.

We have an obligation to stand up for everyday New Yorkers who are struggling to make it, who yearn to start a family, or are striving to raise one. If we’re about the working class then our statutes and our systems need to sing it from the rafters. We can’t get caught up in the quagmire of self-aggrandizement or appeasing special interests; it’s the overall community that matters, not party, and not corporate interests.

If we’re for rooting out corruption, then let’s root out corruption. No more corporate PAC money. No more labor union money. Only individuals.

And yes, we can have a great message, but messaging means nothing without the proper messengers.

Running young, qualified, well-vetted candidates that reflect local communities is our best way of communicating our ideas to a new audience. Communities outside of parts of Manhattan, brownstone Brooklyn, western Queens, and a few other places have been ignored and require more forceful, more vociferous representation at the state level.

Ultimately, it’s not about right versus left, Democrat versus Republican, but instead practical versus fantastical; smart versus irresponsible. There are major crises in state finances and with homelessness, public housing and public transportation; income inequality has sky-rocketed, and Democrats have few solutions other than spending more money. The status quo of corporate welfare is not working; New York’s business climate now consistently ranks 49 out of 50, according to the Tax Foundation.

We need to rethink how we’re doing almost everything in New York -- and Republicans can be the party of ideas and solutions.

This past election cycle has left many New York Republicans searching for answers. We can start to build a new Republican Party in New York City and State before it really is too late.

***
Joel Acevedo is a board member of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club and founder of the Sunset Park Republicans. On Twitter @JoelMAcevedo.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Rebooting the Republican Party in New York City Tue, 04 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Top Republican Strategist on Where the New York GOP Went Wrong and What To Do About It https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8023-top-republican-strategist-on-where-the-new-york-gop-has-gone-wrong-and-what-to-do-about-it https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8023-top-republican-strategist-on-where-the-new-york-gop-has-gone-wrong-and-what-to-do-about-it george pataki at podium gop

former Gov. George Pataki at the 2018 NY GOP convention


The New York Republican Party is on the brink -- perhaps not of extinction, but of a certain type of political wilderness -- and one longtime party figure says he knows where things went wrong and what to do about it.

Republicans have not occupied a statewide office since George Pataki left the governor’s mansion at the end of 2006, and barring a massive upset in November, the statewide offices will continue to be occupied by Democrats from 2019 through 2022. Meanwhile, the state Senate, New York’s lone longstanding bastion of Republican power, appears increasingly likely to be captured by the Democrats this year, producing the first unified state government since 2009.

Republicans currently hold a slim one-seat majority in the Senate and Democrats believe they could flip a half-dozen or more seats in what is broadly expected to be a wave year as the party responds to election of Donald Trump and subsequent policies out of Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, GOP gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, currently the Dutchess county executive and a talented politician with a moderate message, is not only behind the Trump eight ball, but severely underfunded and not well-known as he tries to topple a second-generation governor seeking a third term.

“The state has moved farther to the left, and the idea that somehow people are actually saying that Marc could pull an upset, I don’t know what world they’re living in,” said Tom Doherty, a former top aide to Pataki and currently a political consultant, during a recent interview on the Max & Murphy radio show on WBAI.

Trying to unseat Governor Andrew Cuomo, Molinaro has staked out a Pataki-esque Republican platform, criticizing high property taxes, increasing state spending, mismanagement of key state functions, runaway labor giveaways, and Albany’s culture of corruption. Still, the most recent poll from Quinnipiac gave Cuomo a 23-point advantage over Molinaro in the general election.

Doherty, who has been active in Republican state politics for decades and has seen ups-and-downs in the GOP’s fortunes in New York, characterized this poor showing, coupled with the apparently imminent loss in the Senate, as not a failure on the part of Molinaro, but on the existing leadership in the state party. In Doherty’s eyes, leadership, particularly State Chair Ed Cox, has not provided the right vision and execution in the post-Pataki years.

“He’s a wonderful man,” Doherty said of Cox. “But I’ve known a lot of wonderful men who should not be the party leader.”

The manifold problems plaguing the state GOP, according to Doherty and others, include a hard rightward lurch in a heavily Democratic state, a failure to build effective organizations all across the state with geographically applicable messaging and priorities that run good candidates for everything, and, of course, Donald Trump atop a party wherein most of the leadership has embraced the president despite his being deeply unpopular in New York. Cuomo has labeled Molinaro, who has said he didn’t vote for Trump and has criticized some of his immigration and tax policies, a “Trump mini-me.” Though it is not a fair characterization, it is likely effective with much of the New York electorate.

“Elections are always about the middle,” Doherty said. “Where are the independents voting? The problem in New York is, you have so few Republicans in terms of the numbers versus Democrats that you have to get so many of the independents in your corner. Not only do you have to make sure your guys come out to vote, and this year that’s a problem because Democrats seem very energized, extremely energized, it just made it more difficult for him.”

While much of the New York GOP, including Cox and even county leaders in extremely-deep-blue New York City, has embraced Trump, the statewide path to victory for a Republican must include some Democrats and many independents, while also holding onto the Republican base. It’s a tricky equation any year, but especially with a figure as polarizing as Trump involved.

Doherty said Molinaro needed to be better-funded, and that again goes to party leadership and infrastructure. Molinaro is a great candidate with a good message, Doherty said, but he has not had the support needed to get his name and message out to voters, making his very long odds nearly non-existent.

“Marc Molinaro is a phenomenal candidate,” Doherty said on Max & Murphy. “If you were going to take a Republican candidate in the northeast, you need a George Pataki-like, moderate Republican to compete in the places like Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, et cetera. He’s a great guy. He has no state party operation behind him, he has no money behind him.”

“And I keep hearing about these comparisons to George Pataki,” he continued, drawing important distinctions in his eyes. “New York is not the George Pataki New York of 1994, where you were fighting to go get the Conservative Party endorsement, because you needed that. Quite frankly, you don’t want that today in New York State.”

New York is now a more Democratic state, while Pataki also had advantages, perhaps most especially a sitting Republican United States Senator, Al D’Amato, Doherty pointed out, and a very strong finance director and a state party chair, as well as ready-to-help and competent local leaders. “[E]very time we landed a plane somewhere, or got off the helicopter,” Doherty said, local leaders “were there with massive rallies. None of that exists for Marc this time around, and that’s sad.”

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

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Top Republican Strategist on Where the New York GOP Went Wrong and What To Do About It Fri, 26 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
To Defeat De Blasio, Republicans Attempt Early Rally Behind One Candidate https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6735-to-defeat-de-blasio-republicans-look-for-early-rally-behind-one-candidate https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6735-to-defeat-de-blasio-republicans-look-for-early-rally-behind-one-candidate massey mayor

GOP mayoral candidate Paul Massey, right (photo: @MasseyforMayor)


In hopes of denying Mayor Bill de Blasio a second term, some New York City Republican leaders intend to rally around a single candidate to avoid a contentious primary and present a stronger challenge in the general election.

Starting this week, Republican Party leaders and members will begin the process of vetting candidates who have declared their intention to run for mayor or are exploring a mayoral bid. Party organizations will host public meetings where each candidate will have the opportunity to present their ideas to party voters and functionaries. When it fielded Joe Lhota in 2013 after a primary battle, the GOP lost in a landslide to de Blasio, but with the mayor’s poll numbers showing some vulnerability ahead of this fall’s vote, Republicans hope to identify one candidate to throw their weight behind.

One issue with the strategy at this point, though, is that at least two potential Republican mayoral candidates have not decided whether they will run or not: Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich and businessman John Catsimatidis, who lost in the 2013 primary to Lhota.

So far, two Republicans have officially filed papers to run: real estate developer Paul Massey and Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner. Massey, who has raised and spent well over a million dollars in his campaign so far and is contributing some of his own vast wealth to the effort, is seen as the frontrunner at this point. He’s also been endorsed by the state Independence Party, which backed Mayor Michael Bloomberg twice for reelection.  

Massey is scheduled to speak on Monday evening at the Manhattan Republican Party headquarters, a building which holds about 200 people. An e-blast advertising the event told Manhattan GOP subscribers, “We need to unite this year in the mission of making Bill de Blasio a one term Mayor...We plan to endorse a candidate around April 1 and we hope to prevent a primary by working with the other Republican county chairs in that effort.”

Also scheduled to speak at Manhattan GOP headquarters next week, on Thursday, is Council Member Ulrich, one of three Republicans on the Council, who has been exploring a mayoral run but has yet to officially declare his candidacy.

Republican county leaders say they will weigh each candidate’s platform and the strength of their campaign before they make their decision in the next few months. “We’re going to screen all the candidates,” said Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party. “We’d like to hear everyone’s vision for New York.”

Malpass said the general intent is to back a single candidate after an open and transparent process that involves all stakeholders -- voters, district leaders, county committee members. “It’s evolving, but I think all five [county chairs] are in agreement that if we can avoid a primary, we’ll go into the general much stronger,” she told Gotham Gazette.

In the 2013 mayoral election, Lhota, former chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani, lost to then-Public Advocate de Blasio, receiving just 24.3 percent of vote to de Blasio’s 73.3 percent. Lhota, currently senior vice president and chief of staff at NYU Langone Medical Center, declined to comment for this article through a spokesperson.

Lhota’s grasp of the 2013 Republican nomination did come at a price. This, with the electoral deck already stacked against him due to New York City’s heavy Democratic enrollment. Lhota was pitted against Catsimatidis, a billionaire who spent heavily in mounting his campaign, leading to an at-times acrimonious primary battle accented by attack ads. After he won the nomination, Lhota promised, “It is time to unify our party, strengthen it and prepare it for victory in November.”

The September to November general election campaign never really took off for Lhota and the GOP, with polls quickly showing de Blasio at a significant advantage, lackluster debates, and no significant outside spending to damage de Blasio and promote Lhota.

This time around, the party may be taking Lhota’s 2013 call for unity to heart. “After seeing the results in 2013, most Republicans realized that a joint effort would lead to more favorable results,” said City Council Member Joe Borelli, the newest Republican to join the Council. “But it’s easier said than done.”

Borelli, who represents part of Staten Island -- the lone borough that went for Lhota -- and was a prominent Donald Trump supporter in the presidential race, hasn’t yet endorsed a candidate, but looks forward to doing so when the party rallies around one.

So far, Borelli said, the only candidates that could prove to be effective are Massey and Ulrich. “I think Paul Massey’s substantial haul of $1.6 million sent the right kind of message to the GOP leaders and potential candidates that it’s time to start campaigning and raising money or time to get out of the race,” Borelli said, referring to Massey’s campaign fundraising from the last six months that he declared this month. “With the exception of a sitting elected official like Eric Ulrich, it would be difficult for another candidate to enter the race...Eric has a much better built media platform and ability to generate anti-de Blasio press. I can’t see other candidates generating much buzz.”

And although Borelli said Faulkner is “such a genuine guy,” he added, “I just think it’s such an uphill fight for him, lacking the infrastructure and funding.”

Ulrich has started speaking out against de Blasio more, has held meetings with key political figures, and has done some fundraising on the message of taking on the incumbent, but his exploration of a run has remained fairly quiet. Lhota, though not seemingly active in party politics, has encouraged Ulrich to run. The Council member has also started filming a possible reality show following his mayoral campaign.

In part by default, Massey is currently the frontrunner in the race, having raised the $1.6 million and having also personally loaned his campaign another $1.2 million, per the latest disclosures filed with the Campaign Finance Board. His expenditures of $1.8 million through early January and a few outstanding liabilities leave him with a current balance of about $937,000. Among several consultancies, Massey has retained the November Team, a firm that handled Lhota’s 2013 campaign communications and also represents the State Republican Party.

Faulkner and Ulrich are far behind in money. Faulkner had contributions of $206,000, including about $152,000 in loans, for his campaign. But his expenditures of $213,000 surpassed that, leaving him with a negative balance of $6,900. Ulrich has raised $48,396 and spent $15,027, leaving $33,369 in his campaign account. He is eligible to run for another term on the Council, and may do so -- he said he’ll only run for mayor if he can run a viable campaign, which in large part starts with fundraising.

As Borelli said, the choice may not be as simple as picking the candidate with the most funds, though. Meanwhile, the Republican primary is more complex than relying on the choices of county leaders. Each borough of the city represents a different county and each county committee has dozens of members. Then there are district leaders whose opinions must be sought, and any candidate who can get the petition signatures to appear on the ballot can run.

“I think we’re all going in the same direction but we haven’t put all the pieces together yet,” said Robert Turner, former U.S. Representative and chair of the Queens County Republican Party. “The plan would be to look at the candidates and their positions and if someone has a clear lead, we would like to coalesce around that candidate,” he added.

Although he admitted that a primary “is not a disaster” and may help with drumming up recognition for unknown candidates, in general, he said, “Life would be easier without a primary.” Lamenting the lack of organization in 2013, he hopes this cycle will be different. “We had a very capable candidate,” Turner said of Lhota. “The organization was not as cohesive and thought-out as it needed to be and I’m hoping it can be a lot better.”

There’s wide agreement that primary infighting among Republicans would serve to strengthen de Blasio, who Republicans believe is beatable with the right combination of candidate, message, spending, and strategy. The oft-repeated stand taken by the party and candidates is that quality of life in the city has declined, especially with regard to the city’s homelessness crisis; income inequality has remained relatively unchanged; and crime is on the rise (though statistics show that, overall, crime has declined under de Blasio).

There are also the state and federal investigations into the mayor, his administration and allies, which have given fodder to his opponents, even in his own party. De Blasio is facing a few primary challengers himself, though none appears to be mounting a formidable campaign at this point. Other potential Democratic challengers, like Scott Stringer and Ruben Diaz Jr., are waiting to see the results of the investigations. De Blasio maintains that he and his associates did nothing wrong, and no one has been charged with a crime.

“We want to rally around a candidate and take on Bill de Blasio, and Paul Massey is that candidate,” said Evan Siegfried, a Republican consultant who is unaffiliated with Massey’s campaign. “What we have to avoid is a long drawn-out primary process, which only helps Bill de Blasio’s reelection chances.”

Brooklyn Republican Chair Ted Ghorra told Politico New York, "If there is a primary, I don’t think it would be in anyone’s interest to have the kind of primary that was conducted in 2013." Ulrich told Politico that there are strong potential candidates and, in apparent acknowledgement that h expects a tough GOP nominating contest, "I’m confident the party will unite behind our candidate after the primary."

Siegfried said that Massey’s lack of name recognition would not be an issue, and that he could do better if he actually avoided a primary battle and instead focused on reaching out to voters.  “And when he does that in conjunction with highlighting de Blasio’s utter inability to manage the city -- his presiding over the reduction in quality of life and explosion in homelessness, which [de Blasio] ignores -- then New Yorkers of all stripes will be willing to meet Massey and give him a fair hearing,” Siegfried said. “Many New Yorkers including liberal Democrats are very upset that Bill de Blasio did not continue the 20 years of progress that preceded his taking office.”

De Blasio is the first Democratic mayor of New York City to face a reelection since David Dinkins, who lost to Rudy Giuliani in 1993. But de Blasio doesn’t face the same obstacles. Under Dinkins, unemployment was skyrocketing and people felt unsafe. Under de Blasio, crime has largely decreased and employment has grown for the last three years. It’s a refrain of his campaign, one that spokesperson Dan Levitan repeated when asked about the Republican Party’s effort to avoid a primary. “Under Mayor de Blasio, crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the city is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve,” Levitan wrote in an email. “We are happy to match that record against anyone.”

The most recent Quinnipiac University public opinion poll, from January 18, shows support for the mayor almost split down the middle. Overall, 45 percent of respondents said they approve of the way de Blasio is handling his job while 46 percent disapproved. As can be expected, his support comes overwhelmingly from Democrats, 59 percent of whom gave him a thumbs up while only 17 percent of Republicans felt the same. His reelection numbers are marginally lower than his approval ratings, however. Only 42 percent said he deserves to be reelected while 48 percent said he doesn’t. Thirteen percent of Republicans want to see him get a second term compared to 52 percent of Democrats.

At this point, de Blasio is quite likely to win in the Democratic primary and would go into the general election a heavy favorite, especially due to New York City’s significant Democratic voter enrollment advantage. But, anything can happen, and the primary is still more than seven months away.

Not all the potential or declared Republican candidates have said whether they’ll support the party’s final decision and avoid a primary. Requests for comment to Ulrich and to Massey’s campaign went unanswered. Faulkner, however, believes “it’s a great idea.” “I understand that it’s in the best interest of the party,” he said. When Gotham Gazette asked what he would do if the chosen candidate isn’t him, he said, “I have supported every Republican candidate that has run in New York City. I’ve been loyal to the Republican Party for nearly 30 years and I don’t think that will change.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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To Defeat De Blasio, Republicans Attempt Early Rally Behind One Candidate Sun, 29 Jan 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Manhattan GOP Sees Hope on Upper East Side https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6497-manhattan-gop-sees-hope-on-upper-east-side https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6497-manhattan-gop-sees-hope-on-upper-east-side Harary AD73

Rebecca Harary with supporters (photo via @TeamHarary)


When it comes to the New York State Legislature, most electoral attention is paid to the Senate, which Republicans control by a thin majority and only because an elected Democrat caucuses with them and they have a power-sharing agreement with a five-member faction of breakaway “independent” Democrats. This November’s elections will determine control of the chamber.

In the State Assembly, however, the balance of power is not close. Republicans have been at a massive disadvantage. The Democrats have a stranglehold on the house, which is unlikely to drastically shift come November - Democrats currently hold 104 seats to the Republicans’ 44 (one seat is held by a Working Families Party member and there is one vacancy in the 150-seat chamber). This holds particularly true for seats in New York City, a liberal bastion that helps make New York an overwhelmingly blue state. There are currently only two Republican Assembly members, both from Staten Island, representing New York City’s 66 Assembly districts.

But come November, the Manhattan GOP believes it can make inroads and put not one, but two of their own in Assembly seats on the Upper East Side where Republicans believe that registered Democrats won’t necessarily vote along the party line.

Manhattan Republicans are banking on voting trends from 2013, when Mayor Bill de Blasio’s landslide victory wasn’t reflected on the Upper East Side and he lost the neighborhood to his GOP opponent, Joe Lhota, by double digits.

“The Upper East Side is very Bloomberg-centric,” said Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party, insisting that the neighborhood tends to vote along more conservative lines. “The Upper East Side is not a progressive spot,” she said. The neighborhood is predominantly white and relatively affluent, and has historically supported Republican mayoral candidates. Malpass hopes her party can tap this sentiment in the upcoming election, and win the 73rd and 76th Assembly districts by defeating Democratic incumbents.

The two districts run side by side on the East Side: District 73 extends from 34th Street to 94th Street, bounded by 5th avenue on it’s west side. On the east, it reaches the river in certain sections but mostly stops at 3rd Avenue where District 76 begins. District 76 stretches from 61st to 92nd Street, and includes Roosevelt Island.

While it may be an uphill battle - incumbents are exceedingly difficult to beat - Republicans see some reason for optimism. "The Upper East Side is where we have the best odds of winning a seat this election, but it can't be done without your support and involvement," Malpass recently wrote in an e-newsletter to Manhattan GOP subscribers.

The 73rd district is represented by Assemblymember Dan Quart, who has held the seat since winning it in a special election in 2011. He’s being challenged by Rebecca Harary, a community activist with a long history of nonprofit work. She founded a school for children with autism and a high school for teenagers with mild learning disorders. She is currently the  founding executive director of the Propel Network, an organization that helps Jewish women enter the workforce. She is a mother of six and grandmother of seven, she said in an interview.

In the 76th district, first-term Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, elected in 2014, will face off against Jon Kostakopoulos, a writer for financial news website The Street and former director of field operations for John Catsimatidis’ 2013 mayoral campaign. Kostakopoulos is also Catsimatidis’ godson and the supermarket magnate is set to host a fundraiser for Kostakopoulos in late September.

The two challengers believe they have a solid chance to make these races competitive by focusing on a few core issues -- quality of life, public safety, transportation and education -- and they aren’t worried that the Democrats have an enrollment advantage over Republicans in Manhattan. Active registered Democrats in the borough outnumber Republicans 8 to 1, but that ratio in the 76th district is only about 3.3 to 1, and in the 73rd district it's even closer at 2.5 to 1. 

“We have an absentee Assemblyman,” said Rebecca Harary about Quart, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. “His silence is deafening, and that speaks volumes about the leadership in this district.” Democrats, she said, and particularly Mayor Bill de Blasio, are responsible for rising homelessness and worsening quality of life in the district and across the city. Her opponent, she said, is a company man like most incumbent Democrats. “They’re just going to vote the company line and make no waves,” she said, insisting that there’s a need for an independent voice in the district. “It’s time to ask the real questions,” she said.

Her top priority, besides public safety, is education. She supports charter schools and believes the state should offer tuition tax credits, with increased income thresholds, to parents who choose to send their children to private and parochial schools.  

Assemblymember Quart doesn’t seem worried about the challenge from Harary. “I look forward to November,” he said. His plan is to run on the successes of the last five years, he said, pointing to improvement of air quality in the district, sponsoring and passing legislation on criminal justice issues and helping secure $1 billion in additional funding to the MTA Capital Plan for the Second Avenue subway line. “By any objective measure, I’ve been successful in helping my constituents,” he said.

“I run on my record,” he added. “The politics will work itself out.” Quart has a significant fundraising advantage over his opponent. He has raised more than $335,000 for the race compared to Harary’s $59,000. (Quart also has a city campaign account with $104,375 in it for a possible future race, but he said he does not intend to run for any city office in 2017.)

Fellow Democrat Rebecca Seawright is also confident about her prospects, although she’s not being complacent about the race. “I’m a full-time legislator, I take this job very seriously,” she told Gotham Gazette, alluding to the fact that state legislators are technically part-time and allowed to earn outside money, which has gotten some into trouble.

Seawright said she’s had a successful first term in the Assembly majority. “I’ve passed 10 pieces of legislation and seven have been signed into law by the governor,” she said, also touting her 100 percent attendance record.

Refutes Republicans’ assertion that quality of life is decreasing in the district, Seawright said, “I’m extremely proud of the progress that’s been made. We’re constantly picking up the phone and reaching out to city agencies about getting the homeless into shelters, picking up garbage.”

Seawright is also confident that with Hillary Clinton on the top of the Democratic ticket, voter turnout will be robust on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, which falls in her district. One aspect strongly in Seawright’s favor is her opponent’s late entry into the fray. Kostakopoulos started his campaign only a few weeks ago - he’s holding a campaign launch event September 8 - and has yet to raise any money. Seawright has just short of $100,000 in the bank.

Kostakopoulos told Gotham Gazette he got into the race because Seawright would otherwise have been uncontested, and that during her tenure, quality of life, particularly the issue of homelessness, has become abysmal in District 76. “I’ve been there my entire life and I’ve never seen it so bad,” he said in a phone interview, mentioning homelessness specifically.

He doesn’t intend to make an ideological appeal to voters, however. “I’m not running as a Republican or a Democrat even though I’m on the Republican line,” he said. “I’m running as a resident of the 76th district.” Calling himself a “New York Republican” like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he said he appeals to voters on the Upper East Side who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

If elected, he intends to advocate for quicker completion of the Second Avenue subway, which he said has been perennially delayed under Assembly Democrats. “These career politicians have had enough time,” he said. “Someone’s got to be held accountable.”

Republicans are hoping to see a repeat of the results of the 2013 mayoral race and Manhattan party Chair Malpass is rallying the troops on that message. In an email blast to subscribers, she laid out the strategy and outlined five upcoming events for the candidates, including Kostakopoulos’ campaign launch and fundraiser.

“What we accomplish between now and Election Day will lay the groundwork for winning the Mayor's race in 2017 and making Bill deBlasio [sic] a one-term Mayor,” the email reads. They intend to reach out to independents and moderate Democrats and will use “cutting edge campaign technology” to do so, including merging their voter rolls with internet services and online publications for targeted ads and narrowing down specific buildings and districts to directly reach voters online. It is important that they are funded to do the work, the party wrote.

But relying on the 2013 mayoral voting numbers may be problematic. Steve Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research/The Graduate Center, pointed out that just the next year (2014), in both the 73rd and 76th districts, the Democratic candidates won with overwhelming majorities. “I don’t see how the mayoral results have anything to do with the likelihood of a Republican winning either seat,” he said of the Assembly races, pointing out that Democrats have won these districts all the way back to 2000. “That’s just a reality of the New York City electoral patterns,” he said. “There tends to be a vast difference between municipal elections and state elections, and executive branch results and legislative branch results.”

“If the Republican candidates are trying to pin their hopes on the results of the 2013 mayoral election,” he said, “they’ll be sadly mistaken and they should rethink their strategy.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been updated.

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Manhattan GOP Sees Hope on Upper East Side Fri, 26 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000