By Madina Toure
Newly appointed Chairman Bob Turner said the Queens Republican Party has a lot of work to undertake to reunify the party after decades of discord stemming from the stalemate over the chairmanship position.
“I think we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and I’m anxious to get started. This party has been split for a very long time and the efforts on behalf of everyone to get this united and start working together is great,” Turner told TimesLedger in an interview. “I’m hoping and I expect that I’ll be the guy to do this job, to unite and help heal and put the party in the right direction.”
The Board of Elections voted 10-0 to recognize Turner as the party’s chairman Monday morning.
State Republican Committee Chairman Ed Cox formally announced Turner’s appointment at a rally at the American Legion Center, Continental Post #1424 at 107-15 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills last week that attracted roughly 80 people.
Cox had met with state committee members, who wrote a letter Feb. 11 asking him to recognize Turner as the chairman to unify the party, which has been plagued by divisions.
“They said, ‘We need a leader. We need the leader now and our leader is Chairman Bob Turner and they wanted me to come here and recognize him as a leader and that’s what I did,” Cox said. “The Queens party understood that it has to unify itself because the policies of Bill de Blasio have taken the city in the wrong direction, back to the terrible days of the late 1980s and early ‘90s.”
Turner praised Republican clubs and district leaders in the borough and said the party has identified people who can help tackle issues such as voter registration and fund-raising.
“The job is going to be done by you. I have a great belief in the clubs and the district leaders,” he said. “That’s where the strength of the party is. That’s where the ideas, the energy and the future leadership is coming from. I’m going to depend on you to do that.”
He said Robert Beltrani and Ed Carroll would serve as co-chairmen of the next reorganization meeting.
During a reorganization meeting in 2013, the camp of the late Phil Ragusa claimed he had won re-election as chairman. But Turner’s supporters said the vote was held with insufficient notice and riddled with procedural issues.
The certificates of both Ragusa and Turner remained valid under the law, but Ragusa stayed chairman until his death in June.
After Ragusa died, Beltrani assumed the position but both and he and Turner were claiming the chairmanship, according to the Feb. 11 letter from the committee members.
Turner, 73, attended Richmond Hill HS and St. John’s University. He served in the U.S. Army in the 1960s and worked as a media executive before he won a special election to fill the seat of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who represented parts of Brooklyn and Queens, in 2011 — a position Turner held until 2013 when the seat was eliminated by redistricting.
Queens GOP member and 28th Assembly district leader Bart Haggerty, one of the letter’s signatories who attended the meeting with Cox, said it was “a great night for the party.”
“We read the letter that the state committee members sent to Chairman Cox asking him to recognize Congressman Turner as the chairman, which he effected tonight,” Haggerty said March12. “People are supporting him. We’re a unified county organization again and we’re moving forward.”
Republicans who attended the rally gave Turner a standing ovation, appearing overall pleased with his appointment.
“It’s really a nice, refreshing step forward and I think that his leadership will bring something positive to the Republican Party,” said Anup Saha, 18, an Astoria resident who works as an intern for the party.
Katherine James, 70, a Jamaica resident who serves as district leader for the 32nd Assembly, said Turner cares about the people and that he has the “integrity, the intelligence and the ability” to revive the party.
“The Republican Party, in my opinion, was homeless and leaderless until Bob Turner was elected today,” James said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour