Are Queens Republicans thinking about turning to a Democrat to win a local City Council seat?

Councilman Robert Holden has yet to decide which party he will caucus with in the Council.
File photo/QNS


The 30th City Council District campaign between two arch-rival Democrats — incumbent Elizabeth Crowley and challenger Robert Holden — continues beyond last week’s primary. Though Crowley prevailed, Holden is pressing on to the November general election on the Conservative and Reform party lines.

One odd wrinkle in this contest is the relative absence of the Republican party’s nominee for the City Council seat: Joseph Kasper, an attorney who doesn’t live in the district (he does hold a law practice within it) and failed last year in his attempt to win a judicial seat. Kasper has no campaign website or social media page for a City Council campaign, although he does have a dormant Facebook page for a Supreme Court judgeship campaign in 2016.

His name is also not listed as a City Council candidate on the city’s Campaign Finance Bureau’s “Follow the Money” database that tracks campaign contributions and expenditures.

Kasper’s virtually ghost-like City Council campaign has puzzled some political insiders, but a major shakeup may be near. Two sources familiar with the Queens County Republican Party’s operations have told QNS that Kasper may be enticed to drop out of the City Council race. The sources, speaking to us on the condition of anonymity, noted that he could be replaced on the November ballot with someone whom party insiders see as a more electable choice: Robert Holden.

The 30th District, which includes Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and parts of Woodhaven and Woodside, includes one of the few conservative pockets left in Queens. The seat also has a long history of being held by Republicans; when Crowley defeated Anthony Como in a special November 2008 general election, she became the first Democrat ever to occupy the seat.

Since Crowley first took office, the GOP launched two serious bids to unseat her. In the 2009 general election, Crowley fended off a challenge from former Councilman Tom Ognibene to win her first four-year term in office. Then in 2013, the GOP recruited Craig Caruana, a young first-time candidate, who made a spirited effort against the incumbent Crowley but ultimately lost.

Republicans hold just three City Council seats, one of which belongs to Eric Ulrich of the 32nd District in southwest Queens. The demographics of the 30th District — which include many of the Queens election districts that voted for President Donald Trump in last year’s election — figure to give the Republican Party what some observers believe to be its best hope at picking off a fourth City Council seat.

Kasper, according to one of the sources we spoke with, acts more as a “placeholder” for the Republican line in the Council race than as a serious candidate. Many party insiders, the source said, favor Holden and see him as their “ace in the hole” now that Holden lost last week’s Democratic primary.

Under election law, a party can only replace a candidate on the ballot if the candidate drops out to accept the nomination to a judicial seat. The Queens County GOP, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, will be nominating judicial candidates on Sept. 25, and they may nominate Kasper for a Queens Supreme Court judgeship once again; he has repeatedly run for judicial seats in recent years.

If that happens and Kasper accepts, Kasper would need to drop out of the City Council race. That would clear the way for party leaders to nominate Holden, a registered Democrat for more than four decades but one who isn’t shy about being bipartisan. As Juniper Park Civic Association president, he has both worked and clashed with Democratic and Republican officials in the past over myriad matters.

Robert Turner, chair of the Queens County GOP, stated that Kasper is right now the party’s candidate, even though Kasper does not currently reside within the 30th Council District — a requirement to run for office. Turner said that the lawyer does plan to move there very soon.

When asked about the rumor of Holden possibly replacing Kasper as the GOP nominee, Turner said he is aware of the rumor, but would not confirm its validity at this time.

Getting the Republican line has its advantages for Holden; chief among them, it would pour additional resources into his effort. It also could bring more votes from Republicans accustomed to going straight down the party line on their ballots. Republicans in the 30th District may feel more inspired to turn out at the polls in an otherwise anti-climatic citywide election knowing that their party has embraced a candidate who stands a serious chance at upsetting Crowley.

When asked by QNS about the rumor, Holden said that he doesn’t consider himself “actually anything other than a community guy that’s volunteered his time and worked with both parties” and that he would “listen to every party that would be interested in putting me on the line, obviously.”

“I’d have to talk about what they (the Queens County Republicans) were offering because if they wanted me to change parties and stuff like that, I don’t know,” Holden said. “As I know, they have this guy Joe Kasper running, and that’s all I know. I spoke to GOP months and months ago, and they had spoken to me about a couple of options.”

Holden said that if the offer came along, he “certainly would talk” to the party, and also to his advisors, about whether to accept the Republican line.

“I’m a community guy,” he added. “I never belonged to any political club; certainly my opposition to the Democratic leadership in Queens County has been well documented.”

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