The Queens Republican Party is in disarray after the death of its chairman, Philip Ragusa, last month and the corruption indictment of its vice chairman, Vincent Tabone. The party has also been weakened by infighting as various factions vied for control in recent years.
The unfortunate byproduct of death, a criminal trial delayed and internal politics played out publicly last week when Board of Elections filings revealed the party had not been able to muster enough signatures to run a GOP candidate in the race for Sen. Tony Avella’s seat.
This northeast Queens contest is one of the most widely watched in New York, with former Comptroller John Liu pitted against the incumbent, but the Republicans will not have a horse in the derby.
Queens has had an influential role to play in electing Republicans in the borough and city. Staten Island is a predominantly GOP county, but Queens has a much larger population and a greater number of Republicans despite a 5-1 ratio dominated by Democrats.
In recent years Queens elected Bob Turner to Congress and Peter Koo (who later became a Democrat), Dan Halloran and Eric Ulrich to the City Council.
Halloran was convicted of bribery last week in federal court, another blow for the Queens GOP.
The party has been diminished by these developments, but it still has a vital contribution to make to the Queens political scene and the city.
Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg turned to Queens to give them the votes they needed to win election when they ran as Republicans. Former Borough President Claire Shulman forged a close relationship with Giuliani because he needed Queens and she needed his support to carry out her agenda for the borough.
The Queens GOP must rebuild and put out the fires that have sapped its strength and undercut its mission.
We need to hear the other side of the public debate on issues such as immigration and healthcare in a borough where the majority of elected officials are Democrats. Their differences are often found in nuances — footnotes to the party platform — rather than the lively dialogue that can be sparked by Republican contenders who have opposing views.
The Queens Village Republican Club bills itself as the oldest in the country and hosts guest speakers who bring messages not often heard in the borough. The organization reflects the GOP’s long history in this corner of the city, but now every effort should be made by prominent Queens Republicans at odds with one another to put back together the house Lincoln built in 1861.