A breath of fresh air for the Party.
The Northeast Queens Republican club has been around for over eighty years but has been largely dormant for more than a decade, until now.
President-elect John Watch has set a course for the winds of change.
“My goal as President is outreach, newsletters – to let people know what’s going on, and slowly overtime to build it up,” said Watch who hopes to harness the power of the internet and other social and traditional media to revive the organization back to it’s heyday.
A majority of longstanding members are matured into their senior years, a demographic that Watch hopes to retain for their knowledge and experience, while at the same time evolving the club’s agenda by concentrating outreach efforts on young and out of touch voters.
“If our 80 members go home and write out 5 other people that want to get involved, that’s 400,” said Watch who has harnessed the power of grassroots recruitment several times in the past.
Watch has been active on the local political scene where he has served on the campaigns of Elio Forcina for Assembly, Paul Vallone and Dan Halloran for City Council.
In 2011, Watch ran for state Committee member against Councilman Halloran – who withdrew at the last minute – and was substituted by Dr. Anthony Daddiego, a special education teacher who won the state committeeman position outright.
Undaunted by the loss, Watch did not walk away empty handed. He became an elected member of the County Committee, a party apparatus he hopes to restore to its proper role. “If you were running in the 25th A.D, the County Committee is supposed to come together, meet you, and decide to run you, but they aren’t involved in the way they are supposed to be, they are being overridden.”
In 2009, only 14 out of 80 districts had a county committee person, according to Watch.
During the campaign, Watch helped elect a slate of fellow candidates and it rose to 75 members in total. He increased the size of the County Committee three fold.
“I got involved because I care and once I got involved, I asked where are the Queens GOP? How are they helping candidates?”
Watch has lived in the Broadway-Flushing area since 1989 and has learned politics by observing the party and local political clubs. Empowered by his experience, Watch hopes to organize the club by setting the agenda on a path to target voters who may not have ever been invited to a political club. For example, in the twenty years that Watch has lived in Broadway-Flushing, he said he did not receive a single piece of literature from the Queens GOP.
Watch blames the lack of outreach for alienating potential members.
While on the front lines collecting signatures for candidates, Watch has knocked on a lot of doors – an experience he credits with furnishing significant insight to the voters of northeast Queens. In his travels, Watch admits that he identified Democratic voters “whom deep down inside are really sympathetic with Republicans, but ally with Democrats for the sole purpose of getting anything done in government.”
“I don’t look at registration as a benchmark to say the City is so heavily Democratic that the GOP cant make any headway. I don’t agree with that,” said Watch who plans on opening the club to all political stripes.
“We want to help candidates get elected, and show them that we are here for them – not too make them jump through hoops,” according to Watch who envisions a club that can diagnose which resources a candidate needs, and then point them toward victory. The Club hopes to set parameters that will be more like guidelines for getting an A on a school paper, in the sense that they will inform a candidate on what they need (election lawyers, campaigners, polling, etc.), rather than insist on a specific course of action.
In 2002, Queens County was a significant player in statewide GOP politics. The county had over 11 percent of the weighted vote statewide. “We had more than Nassau county,” noted Watch who questioned the results of 2006 when the weighted vote dropped to 5 percent. “In one four year period, half the weighted vote was lost. Why?”
In 2010, in the 26th A.D, the home base of the Queens GOP, the weighted vote dropped yet again.
Watch feels that the local party’s GOTV operation combined with a decade long leadership struggle has left the them floundering in the water devoid of all young people.
“People need to sit at the table and consciously talk about the direction the city, state and country takes, and we all need to have respect. I’m not going to win everything – you’re not going to win everything, we must ask ourselves how do we move forward?”
The Northeast Queens Republican Club meets the third Wednesday of every month 7PM at the Clearview Golf Course. The officers will be installed this Wednesday January 18th, by City Councilman Dan Halloran.