By William Lewis
In the 2010 election, the state Conservative Party made a significant gain. As a result of its showing in the governor’s race, the party will remain on the ballot for the next four years and advance its position from Row D to Row C, right next to the Republican and Democratic parties.
This situation developed even though GOP candidate Carl Paladino, who was also running for governor on the Conservative line, only obtained about 14 percent of the vote for governor in New York City. A significant number of registered voters who cast their ballots for Paladino did so on the Conservative line. The regaining of Row C puts the Conservative Party in a stronger ballot position for the all-important 2012 elections.
Taking an overview of the Conservative Party in Queens since it was first formed in 1962, the Queens Conservative Party was at its height of registration in the early 1970s, when it had more than 20,000 registered members. During that period, Queens Conservatives had sixteen Conservative Party clubs all over the county. Most of these clubs had names of local towns and leading American historical individuals.
A few examples of clubs during that time were the Flushing, Bayside and Rockaway Conservative Clubs. There was also the Alexander Hamilton Club of Glendale and Woodhaven, the Douglas McArthur Club of Richmond Hill, the Patrick Henry Club of Whitestone and the James Monroe Club of Jackson Heights. This type of grassroots structure gave the Queens Conservative Party a cadre of people to circulate petitions and work in political campaigns for Conservative candidates.
Today, the Queens Conservative Party has only about a third of the registered members it had in the early ’70s. As for the 16 clubs that existed during that earlier time, they are all gone. There are just not enough Queens Conservatives to maintain permanent club structures. Almost all party activities originate from the county organization led by County Chairman Tom Long, who has been chairman since 1992.
Long is optimistic about the future of the Queens Conservative Party. He believes that by regaining Row C it will have the effect of bringing higher vote totals. He has indicated that this year his organization will be working on increasing the county party registration. He intends to have more guest speakers address their county organization.
Regarding Long’s plans for next year, he and his leaders want to develop a comprehensive screening process for any potential candidate who will be seeking the Conservative Party endorsement for public office. They have sought to develop a working relationship with the Nassau County Tea Party movement. They have over the years mostly maintained a cooperative effort with the Republican Party in selecting candidates.
As for the Independence Party, it has dropped on the ballot to Row E. Some political observers believe the main reason the Independence Party did not do well last year was that its reluctance to take positions on political issues other than calling for non-partisan elections hurt its efforts.
During this time of economic insecurity, people want to hear political parties take positions on issues. The conflict within the party organization structure between the state and city Independence parties has also damaged its chances. The city party is not organized like the other parties. It has no district leaders. Its five county executive committees meet together as one group every month, usually in different counties. They have state and county committees, which are required by state election law.
The city party leadership remains optimistic, since nationally an increasing number of voters have become independents. In general, third parties can have a major impact on election results, especially when those elections are close.