It's even worse than we thought!
In case you missed last week's column, we wrote about Bob Turner's endorsement of Curtis Sliwa for public advocate. While the special election will be nonpartisan – meaning that candidates can't run on any established party line – the growing list of candidates interested in replacing Letitia James is predominately Democrats.
That is except for Sliwa, who is chair of the New York State Reform Party, and one Republican, Councilman Eric Ulrich of south Queens.
The endorsement of Sliwa may seem trivial, but Turner is the former chair of the Queens Republican Pary, a post he assumed after his brief stint in Congress (his district was eliminated when congressional line were redrawn following the last census).
Naming Turner chair was supposed to signal a truce between two factions of the Queens GOP, a rift that only intensified after the death of longtime chair Phil Ragusa.
One of those factions was “led” by Ulrich and brothers Bart and John Haggerty. Turner's installation in 2015 was seen as putting “their guy” in charge.
But the relationship between Turner and Ulrich soon soured, and last year Joann Ariola was voted in as new chair, a coup many viewed as orchestrated by Ulrich.
So Turner's endorsement of Sliwa was as much about Sliwa as it was about sticking it to Ulrich in the seemingly endless power struggle for the Queens GOP.
Now it looks like this special election is going to fan those flames.
Last week, the leadership of four Queens Republican clubs called on whoever is seeking support from the Republican should take part in a public forum in January, about a month before the special election.
Presumably the “forum” they are talking about would be a debate between Ulrich and Sliwa.
Sliwa recently met with the leaders of the Queens Village Republican Club, Rockaway Republican Club, Whitestone Republican Club, and Astoria's Frank Kenna Republican Club seeking their support.
And it looks like they have already decided who they are going to back in the race, but don't just assume that because all four posed for a friendly holiday card with Sliwa. Here's what a press release they issued last week read:
"We are very concerned that Eric Ulrich broke with Republicans and moderate Democrats to elect the radical Melissa Mark-Viverito as Council Speaker in 2014, that he has refused to back Republican candidates in the last three elections, including his undermining of Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis's Mayoral campaign by his support for Bo Dietl, and that his positions on so many issues have flip-flopped since his election in 2009."
These were the same issues brought up by Sliwa in the press release announcing his candidacy.
The four GOP club heads also took issue with Ulrich having John Haggerty, who served time in prison for stealing money the Michael Bloomberg campaign gave him for voting security operations, as his top advisor and for helping him the get the post of executive director of the Queens Republican Party.
“The days of the wannabe political bosses and smoke-filled back rooms in Queens GOP politics are over,” said Philip MacManus, president of the Rockaway Republican Club. “Joann Ariola is not Mayor Daley and John Haggerty is not Carmine Desapio. It's time for an open debate.”
So if you can read between the lines, any debate would not necessarily be about who would be the best public advocate, but who should be in control of the Queens Republican Party.
The forum/debate wouldn't be about where Ulrich stands on the issues, but the issues other have with him and the direction and future of the county party.
The last candidates forum the Queens Village Republican Club hosted the cops had to be called. Things could get messy!