Queens GOP seeks to distance itself from a controversial candidate before primary

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The Sept. 13 primary elections for a number of local offices are quickly approaching, and the Queens GOP is moving to discredit one of its candidates before it is too late.

On Aug. 28, Queens GOP Chairwoman Joann Ariola came to the QNS office in Bayside to voice the party’s concerns about State Senate District 11 Republican candidate Vickie Paladino, who is running against GOP-endorsed candidate Simon Minching in the primary.

Ariola pointed out several areas of concern the party has with Paladino, including her tax records, her affiliation with fringe political groups, her behavior on social media and past remarks she has made at campaign events.

“Vickie Paladino represents everything that we are not,” Ariola said.

The party’s distaste with Paladino dates back to her involvement in Bo Dietl’s independent mayoral campaign in 2017. Paladino first joined Dietl’s campaign after a video of her shouting at Mayor Bill de Blasio after a press conference in Whitestone went viral.

Once she began working for Dietl, Paladino was asked numerous times to delete Facebook posts that were offensive, John Haggerty of the Queens County GOP claimed, and her personal Twitter account was eventually shut down. Haggerty accompanied Ariola to her visit with the QNS office.

Since launching her own political campaign, Paladino has created a new Twitter account that was briefly suspended this year for reasons unclear. On Facebook, some of her supporters have spread anti-Semitic and borderline racist speech on her page, as seen in screen shots shared by Ariola. Haggerty remarked that Paladino’s failure to denounce these supporters is “disgusting.”

Paladino has also garnered support from groups like Latinos for Trump and the Proud Boys, the latter of which has been associated with white nationalism. At the recent screening of the Dinesh D’Souza film “Death of a Nation,” Paladino said she was confronted outside the theater by what she called “left-wing thugs” and members of the Proud Boys stepped in to help her.

While Paladino thanked the Proud Boys in a Twitter post with a video of the incident, Ariola accused her of inciting them by storming across the street in the first place. (Warning: Video contains strong language).

“She’s looking to create a viral moment because that’s what gave her her fame,” Ariola said. “She’s looking for that second bite at the apple.”

Ariola and Haggerty also denounced Paladino’s comments about millennials at a campaign event. In a video provided to QNS, Paladino was critical of the GOP for supporting the 31-year-old Minching in the primary. She accused the party of pushing Minching in order to get the millennial vote, and added that vote is from “an uninformed, dumb audience that has no idea what it means to pay a bill.”

When asked about those comments at a candidate forum in Bay Terrace, Paladino said that she was taken out of context.

Moreover, Ariola pointed out that Paladino herself has approximately $40,000 in tax debt, as revealed in her filing with the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Still, the GOP did not challenge Paladino’s petition to run in the election because they believe in the primary and the ability to let the Republicans decide, Haggerty said. Ariola added that the party is, in fact, trying to harvest the young voters and focus on “center right” views rather than the more extreme “in a borough where we now can win.”

Compared to Minching, whom Haggerty said has a deep knowledge of policy and could talk about it for hours, Paladino is “as thin as you get when it comes to substance.”

“She talks in the thinnest generalities to begin with combined with hyperbole,” Haggerty said. “You talk about qualification for public office, besides all of this, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

When reached over the phone on Sept. 5, Paladino campaign spokesperson Robert Hornak, a former executive director of the Queens GOP himself, expressed his disappointment that the party has resorted to using such tactics against a candidate.

The organization used to be respectful and now it’s essentially run by a felon and a public chair who is controlled by him and its very sad,” Hornak said. “We used to be a broad-based organization that brought people in and grew the party and now it pushes people out.”

Hornak, who is Jewish, added that accusations of Paladino being anti-Semitic are “vile” and he would openly reject them if true. He also referred to Minching as “extremely liberal” on many issues and recently sent out a press release calling for Minching to denounce the support he received from the Libertarian Party.

“They are the ones using this tactic in the most disgusting way,” Hornak said of the GOP. “They make these generic claims just calling her names without any evidence whatsoever.”

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