By Howard Koplowitz
Eric Ulrich, a Republican district leader and Ozone Park resident, officially declared his candidacy Tuesday for the upcoming special election to fill City Councilman Joseph Addabbo’s (Dâˆ’Howard Beach) seat.
Ulrich, 23, was joined by some of the top Republican officials in Queens, including GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa and former Councilman Tom Ognibene, outside his campaign headquarters on 101st Avenue in Ozone Park.
Addabbo’s Council seat will become open in January when he goes to Albany after defeating longtime state Sen. Serphin Maltese (Râˆ’Glendale) in November. Addabbo has yet to vacate his seat, but once he does, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will have to call a special election. Such contests are usually held in February.
“For me, this election is not just about running for City Council,” Ulrich said. “It’s a campaign for the future. I believe if there ever was a time that fresh ideas were needed in the City Council, that time is now.”
Ulrich, who lives in Ozone Park and was elected district leader in September 2007, said the economy was the prime issue in the district, noting that it affects other areas, such as education and qualityâˆ’ofâˆ’life concerns.
“The No. 1 issue is the economy, but in light of that, all the other issues kind of trickle down,” he said.
Although he declared his bid for the seat Tuesday, Ulrich has been actively fundâˆ’raising since January 2006. He has $28,350 in his campaign chest, according to the latest city Campaign Finance Board filings.
Democratic District Leader and Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio, Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, Howard Beach resident Sam DiBernardo and Rockaway resident Glen DiResto are expected to join Ulrich in the race.
By rule, the special election is nonâˆ’partisan, meaning the candidates will not be running with party affiliations.
Ulrich, who taught at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn until September and is doing legal work on the side, said he believed he was the best candidate to bring results to the district, which includes Howard Beach, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Broad Channel and the Rockways.
“It’s a fresh start and we need fresh ideas,” he said. “I think I possess this in a unique way that the other candidates do not.”
Both Ragusa and Ognibene gave their endorsements to Ulrich.
“He’s going to be a fresh voice in City Hall,” Ragusa said. “He’s not going to be like those lemmings who rubberâˆ’stamp everything from the speaker.”
Ognibene said Ulrich is someone “who’s more concerned about the safety of the community than his personal advancement at City Hall. This is a man who has dedicated himself to the community.”
Ulrich said he did not think his age would be a deterrent to winning the seat, saying he believed there was a double standard from critics who say he is too young for office when U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (Dâˆ’Jackson Heights) and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (Dâˆ’N.Y.) both were first elected to political office in their 20s.
“I think it’s an absolute positive,” said Ulrich, who will turn 24 in February. “They’re saying, ‘Eric, we’ll pat you on your head when it’s your time.’ No way,” he said.
He also said being a Republican would not harm his chances, noting that the seat had been in Republican hands before Addabbo was elected in 2001.
“This is not Don Quixote fighting the windmills here,” Ulrich said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by eâˆ’mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 173.