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Nov 16 2011

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Battleground: Forest Hills

"Eric told me to do it," says Congressman Bob Turner who looks pleased while Bart Harggety and Phil Ragusa fight for the credit for anointing him. GOP State Chairman Ed Cox stares down in disgust.

Forest Hills may be the new epicenter of Republican party politics.

Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa chartered a new political club in a location that a south Queens Republican operative isn’t too chipper about it.

The new American Eagle Republican Club hosted its first meeting Tuesday night at the Forest Hills Jewish Center

“After the [Bob] Turner victory, Forest Hills jumped to the top of the list,” said Robert Hornak, a spokesman for the Queens GOP in an interview with the Daily News.

Forest Hills is interesting. It is long known to be the forward operating base of the rival Haggerty clan who bear an ancient grudge against Chairman Phil Ragusa and associates.

Ragusa is hoping to keep the momentum going that energized voters for Congressman Bob Turner’s big win in the 9th District.

While the 19th and 20th Council Districts are held by two Republicans, Dan Halloran and Peter Koo, the local political clubs are small in number and are often a heaven’s waiting room of senior citizens jockeying for a free cup of coffee and stale Entenmann’s crumb cake.  So why would there be a move to Forest Hills, especially at a time when GOP political muscle in northeast Queens has atrophied?

At Queens-Politics we believe it’s throwing a little salt in the ol’ wound.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich and his Chief of Staff, Bart Haggerty (also a District Leader)  attempted to usurp the leadership at the Queens GOP by electing Thomas Ognibene as Chairman. What people may overlook is that these are the same operatives that groomed Bob Turner from start to finish (legend has it they found him playing Canasta at a senior club).

Councilman Ulrich bestows pearls of wisdom upon Bob Turner who was quoted as calling him his “26 year old mentor.”

Insiders say Phil Ragusa tried to steal credit even boasting about it on the party website. Now, Ragusa has started a political club in what some call the territory of the south Queens GOP – whom are not recognized by State GOP Party Chairman Ed Cox or the courts.

Instead of concentrating outreach efforts in northeast Queens (a region long known for convoluted party politics) where it’s needed,  Ragusa is moving the big show into Forest Hills where he believes he may have better luck recruiting a viable political club.

Rival Bart Haggerty is not welcoming the newcomers. He says Forest Hills already has a clubhouse, the Forest Park Republican Club and that Ragusa’s front man, Juan Reyes, a Forest Hills-raised lawyer has been missing in community action for ten years.

Robert Hornak told me in a prior interview that Ragusa has championed outreach efforts for new immigrant communities that tend to lean conservative on social issues.

While this is  true, the location of Forest Hills is sure to be a thorn in the side to the radical triumvirate, the Haggerty-Ulrich-Ognibene faction of the Queens GOP.

It is likely a sign of more tensions to come.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/11/battleground-forest-hills/


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