By William Lewis
Every two years, major and minor political parties focus on county conventions for the purpose of electing county officers to run the county party during the next two-year period.
This procedure is also done at the state level to elect state leaders. New York state election law directs that these conventions be held. The delegates who attend these functions with voting privileges are members of the county committee, which will be elected during party primary elections in September.
In the case of the Democratic and Conservative parties, these conventions are held in even years. The county Republican Party holds its convention in odd-number years. That being the case, 2013 is the year for the Queens Republican convention.
For years there has been party strife in the Queens Republican Party. It has been a long, internal party battle that has been going on periodically since the 1980s.
The present chairman is Phil Ragusa, who has served for the last six years as county leader. He has been challenged every two years by insurgents seeking to take over the county organization. Ragusa and his county officers have won re-election by a significant majority each time they were challenged.
This year promises to be no different, since the insurgents are putting forth a major effort to take over the Republican county organization. As in past years, though, it has been shown that Ragusa has strong support from the county committee, as it has elected him every two years since he became leader.
Ragusa has served in the Queens Republican Party most of his life. He has been a club chairman, district leader, county treasurer and county vice chairman.
Two years ago there were rumors that former U.S. Rep. Robert Turner would challenge Ragusa, but it never materialized.
It would be beneficial to the Queens Republican Party if the regular organization and the insurgents could work out a compromise solution and end the strife, but at this particular time that does not seem possible.
After the last several county conventions, there were court challenges from both sides. In all these cases, the courts upheld Ragusa and the regular organization.
Looking at the big picture, these party conflicts have caused damage to the Republican chances of electing candidates to public office. In recent years, the Queens Democratic Party has been united at the county level, which has been a benefit to its candidates for public office.
Hopefully, the Queens Republican Party will emerge stronger next year when there will be state offices up for election.
It will be helpful to the Queens political system if more residents of our borough would become active in politics by joining political clubs, running for public office and working for candidates during political campaigns. The more citizens show an interest in local politics, the more it strengthens our democratic electoral system.
The last time the Democratic Party had a large internal fight occurred in 1961, and it involved the entire city. Hopefully, in the future internal political party warfare can be kept to a minimum.
For politics to work well in a democratic society, there has to be a significant amount of citizen involvement. We need a lot more interest by the people in our system if our system is to improve.