By William Lewis
Phil Ragusa began his active political career at about the same time former state Sen. Frank Padavan did. He has been active in politics during the last 38 years. He first joined the Beechhurst Republican Club in 1973 and in 1974 was elected chairman of that club.
Ragusa pointed out during that period of time that there was much more organizational structure within the Queens Republican Party than now, considering it had a larger number of registered Republicans with more elected officials, especially in the state Assembly. During the 1970s, the county committees of the various Assembly districts met several times a year to discuss party policy in Queens.
When asked about the intra-party conflicts during the last 30 years that have continued within the Queens Republican Party, Ragusa indicated that different factions have developed that have come about due to political or personal reasons. He hopes this will be the last year of internal party battles on a major scale. Ragusa believes these endless political conflicts have hurt the party during November general elections.
The county leader, when asked what his happiest moment in politics was, said the 2009 City Council elections, when three Republicans were elected. He attributed these victories to hard work by the county organization. He also indicated that in the 2009 election as well as in other winning elections so much depends on getting the message out to voters as well as getting candidates who are effective campaigners.
When discussing the 2010 elections, Ragusa said the Queens Republican Party fielded 17 candidates, more than it had run in a considerable number of years. He believed Republican Carl Paladino, who ran for governor and only got 14 percent of the Queens vote, hurt the entire slate of county candidates, including Padavan.
He also mentioned that several party candidates got more than 40 percent of the vote. He further pointed out that had the party’s gubernatorial candidate at the top of the ticket done better and brought in a higher vote total, the Queens election results last year might have been different.
As for which past political campaigns stand out to him, Ragusa worked in all the Padavan races and has a sense of accomplishment by having participated in all of Padavan’s electoral victories up to last year.
He believes next year will be one of the most important election years nationally — statewide and locally. There is always a large Republican turnout during presidential election years. Ragusa wants to build a strong county campaign organization as we move into 2012, at which time, if the party can run strong candidates, it has a chance of winning several contests.
Right now, before he can concentrate on next year, Ragusa must confront the forces challenging the county organization he leads. It will mean a countywide conflict all summer, leading into the September primaries and Queens Republican Party convention.
In a statement given by Ragusa, he said, “I believe the Queens County Republican Party next year will make significant gains in congressional, state Senate and Assembly races and we will play a vital role in the New York presidential primary of 2012.”
The presidential primary in New York next year is scheduled for April 24. At that time, all national Republican presidential candidates running in the state primaries will have an opportunity to run in the New York presidential primary election. Therefore, next year in New York we will have two sets of primaries, one in April and one later on depending on when they are scheduled.
It has not been an active year in Queens during 2011 in terms of races for public office, but next year will produce constant elections.