Grand Old Days of the Queens GOP
Mar 14, 2018 | 2570 views | 0 0 comments | 153 153 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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There was a time decades ago when the Queens Republican Party was alive and well.

For example, the late Richmond Hill Republican Club leader Wilfred Dalton was a major force in politics. Any serious city, state or federal GOP candidate would stop by his clubhouse seeking support.

Former presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan all spoke there.

In 1976, former governor Nelson Rockefeller still controlled the New York State GOP. During the Republican Presidential Primary that same year, the GOP establishment rallied around President Gerald Ford.

Dalton endorsed former California governor Reagan, successfully electing pro-Reagan delegates to the national GOP Convention.

In 1980, the GOP establishment was split between George Bush and Bob Dole. Proving the second time is a charm, Dalton teamed up with others and again elected pro-Reagan delegates.

Up until the 1980's, Queens Republicans routinely qualified candidates for all Congressional, State Senate, Assembly and City Council seats.

The old Richmond Hill GOP club was once part of a vital Queens County Republican organization that would offer Democrats serious competition.

Despite a four-to-one Democrat to Republican enrollment, Sheldon Farber won a special election in March 1977, defeating Assemblyman Gerdi Lipschutz for a vacant State Senate seat.

He joined Martin Knorr and Frank Padavan for a record three Queens GOP state senators. Farber lost his reelection bid in 1978.

After the 1982 reapportionment, Democrats eliminated the districts of Queens GOP Assembly members Rosemary Gunning, John LoPresto, John Flack, Al DelliBovi and John Esposito.

GOP state senators Padavan and Knorr voted for this reapportionment plan, as it continued to protect their own gerrymandered districts.

John Gallagher gave up what is now the 26th Assembly seat in 1972 to run unsuccessfully against Democratic congress member Lester Wolff. Doug Prescott briefly recaptured this seat in the 1990s, but eventually lost, leaving Queens with no GOP Assembly members.

Republican state senator Serf Maltese lost in 2008, followed by Frank Padavan's downfall in 2010, leaving Queens with no GOP representation in Albany.

The last GOP Congress member from Queens to serve multiple terms was Seymour Halperin. After the 1972 reapportionment, he declined to run against Democrat Lester Wolff of Great Neck, when both were merged into one Queens/Nassau district.

In 1982, GOP Congress member John LeBoutellier briefly recaptured this seat for one term. In 2011, Republican Bob Turner won the 9th CD special election to replace Democrat Anthony Weiner.

As a result of his district being gerrymandered out of existence, he ran and lost in the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate primary rather than seek reelection from another Congressional District.

During the 1990s, under Republican Mayor Rudy Guiliani, the GOP elected a record three City Council members from Queens, Tom Olgibene, Mike Abel and Alfonse Stabile. Today the last GOP public official from Queens is Councilman Eric Ulrich.

You would have to go back to the 1950s or earlier to find the last GOP Queens borough president. Nat Hentel was the last GOP district attorney in 1970.

The most recent voter enrollment figures speak volumes. Within Queens, as of November 1, 2017, there are 1,119,089 active registered voters, with 724,821 being Democrats and 122,888 Republicans.

Voters continue to have to look elsewhere for alternatives to the Queens County Democratic Party machine monopoly. Bob Holden was elected on the GOP ballot line, but he will maintain his Democratic Party enrollment and caucus with the Democrats.

As a result, the term-limited Ulrich may be the last of his kind. The remaining Queens County Republicans may follow the corner telephone booth into extinction.

Larry Penner is a resident of Great Neck.
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