Tag Archive: Democrats

Nov 02 2012

Congresswoman Grace Meng thanks Queens-Politics

A special thanks to Assemblywoman Grace Meng for accepting my endorsement of her bid for U.S Congress with kind words that reflect the mission of Queens-Politics to restore accountability in government and politics.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of Queens Politics – a blog that stands for the issues I believe in, including transparency in government and electoral reform. My thanks as well to Queens Politics Editor in Chief, Adam Lombardi, for his community activism and parish volunteerism in Auburndale and throughout Queens.” -Grace Meng

Grace, we know what you are altogether right. Your platform is right, the place is right, and you are the right person for that place, and when the right time comes, we will be right on the spot with our right hands raised to cast our ballots and usher in a new era of good government. When elected I know you shall bring to Congress an earnest desire to perform your duties efficiently and honorably. When you are successful at the polls, it will not be a personal triumph, but the triumph of those principles which you represent.

Cheers to the people’s victory on November 6th. Vote Grace For Congress!

Grace Meng

Grace Meng and I.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/11/kind-words-from-grace-vote-grace-election-day/

Oct 30 2012

With Ulrich territory underwater, could Sandy have tipped the balance in Addabbo’s favor?

Breezy Point is absolutely devastated after Hurricane Sandy.

In Albany, state senate dems and republicans are in disarray because the dynamics of South Queens may have been changed due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The Rockaways, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Howard Beach – these are the neighborhoods that helped elect Councilman Erich Ulrich but with these neighborhoods devastated and partially submerged, insiders are predicting the destruction may physically stop Ulrich’s base from voting on Election day.

Everyone is worried – what’s not on fire is underwater. Questions are being raised by both camps. Who will come back by Tuesday, and if they do will they vote? How will we perform a pull operation? By boat?

The stakes are extremely high and all eyes are on this race because this seat will decide control of the Senate and that’s why so much money has been poured into Ulrich’s and Addabbo’s campaign war chest.

If the battle shifts the fight to the northern section of the district including the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village. Glendale and Forest Hills, Ulrich could be at a major disadvantage as the conservative leaning neighborhoods that support Ulrich are unlikely to be concerned about voting when their homes have been destroyed, according to a source familiar with the situation.

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Update 12:34PM: Crain’s New York Confirms that the homes of Rep. Bob Turner and Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long have burned down.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/with-ulrich-territory-underwater-could-sandy-have-tipped-balance-in-addabbos-favor/

Oct 29 2012

THE MAN WITH THE “CAMPAIGN MIND”

The 3rd Congressional District was reapportioned with sections of northeast Queens, a part of town where U.S Rep. Steve Israel needed to build name recognition.

The redistricting of 2012 opened the door for New York Congressman Steve Israel to step into the political consciousness of northeast Queens, but despite conventional wisdom his national job as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) wasn’t enough to raise his name recognition, it was a strong grassroots campaign initiative which helped ensure victory on Election Day.

He didn’t grow up in Queens, but he spent every Sunday here with his grandparents and his dad in the shadow of Shea Stadium, dreaming of someday playing centerfield for the New York Mets.

Being new to the area, over the summer his campaign team launched a concentrated effort to raise name recognition in Queens. Virtually overnight, campaign signs peppered the neighborhood, bumper stickers were given out, and soon civic groups and political organizations met members of his campaign team.

Israel’s iconic green and blue “Steve Israel t-shirt” became ubiquitous throughout the new parts of New York’s fifth CD running from the tip of Whitestone and as far South as Glen Oaks.  But some questions remain, who is Steve Israel, what does he stand for, and what will he do for Queens?

Steve grew up in Long Island, deep in Nassau County in Dix Hills, so naturally the question arises, does Israel know what he is getting into with us Queens folk? We don’t know for sure, yet, but what we do know is that Israel hit the campaign trail with style and it’s been hard to ignore.

To put his ear to the beat of the neighborhood, Steve began visiting the Democratic clubs, including the Clinton Democratic Club, where he was welcomed with much fanfare. Upon meeting Israel, the club’s president, Paul Vallone, concluded, “He’s an exemplary leader for New York.”

Israel made further rounds at the FDR Democratic Club, and then with a plethora of civic groups and senior centers all the while meeting one on one with community leaders. Last week Israel was greeting voters at Waldbaum’s in Bay Terrace.

Who is he, where does he stand? Steve Israel has a strong progressive record. “Steve Israel is a champion of progressive values in the United States Congress and has done an excellent job to restore the Democratic Majority in the house,” according to Steve Behar, a community advocate for northeast Queens and a national figure in progressive politics.

The eastern edge of Queens now in NY3 (in blue) includes Bay Terrace, parts of Bayside, Beechhurst, Little Neck, Douglaston, Glen Oaks, Bellaire, and Floral Park. Map from CUNY Center For Urban Research.

But with a fickle constituency like in northeast Queens – a place where large pockets of voters register as Democrats but tend to lean Republican – Israel will have to remain cordial and open to a sense of pragmatism to transcend these differences and win the hearts of this odd mix.

So far he’s off to a great start. “I don’t care if they’re Dems or Republicans – for me before I was taught to be a Democrat, I was taught to be a Mets fan,” joked Israel – a sound bite that will bode well with voters in northeast Queens.

The political world might see Rep. Israel as the chairman of the powerful DCCC, but first and foremost comes the needs of his constituency. “My primary job is to be the representative and my part-time job is to try and take the majority,” said Israel. His statement expressed the dichotomy of his role as both a member of Congress to provide services for the new constituency and as DCCC Chair to help elect Democrats across the nation, however the line between the two can sometimes be blurry. During the interview he emphasized that the needs of the district will be his primary objective but in regards to strategy to retake the majority (which he believes will also serve not only the district, but the entire country) Israel said it’s very straightforward. It’s mostly raising awareness. “We want to remind people under the Republican majority a budget was passed that ends Medicare in order to fund tax cuts for millionaires…the Republican majority for 24 months has been trying to shut down Planned Parenthood instead of trying to open up small businesses.”

He continued, “big corporations that want to outsource jobs to China and receive tax breaks when instead we should be making it easier for middle class families to afford college in New York.” Israel believes we should expand student assistance programs, including amending the tax code. “Middle class families should be able to write off a big part of their college investments. That is a much better investment to growing an economy than letting a giant corporation write off the cost of opening up a plant in China,” the influential Dem said.

The Congressman’s voting record is as liberal progressive as his talking point. On abortion he is pro-choice (NARAL gave him a 100 rating) and he supported same-sex marriage in 2010. Year after year he receives an ‘F’ from the National Rifle Association for his position on gun rights. On the economy, Israel believes in reducing defense spending and increasing income tax brackets in order to balance the budget. In the past he has advocated for federal spending as a means of promoting economic growth and he believes in providing tax incentives to businesses for the purpose of job creation.

In 2007 Israel voted YES on regulating the subprime mortgage industry. In 2009, he voted yes for senate pay raises and in 2006 a no for requiring photo-IDs for federal elections. Israel is against privatization of social security into personal spending accounts and he staunchly defends the Affordable Care Act, or what even President Obama now calls Obamacare.

Ethics reform is also a major part of his platform. I spoke candidly to him about lobbyists in their dual role as campaign managers, funneling clients and money back and forth, and the need for regulation, he raised the ethical dilemmas of Super PACs.  “I have heard plenty of concerns about ethics with respect to elected officials but I have not heard the issue of whether campaign managers should be regulated. I will say that I think this country is in need of fundamental campaign finance reform. You know have these super PACs sanctioned by the Supreme Court that can spend anything, spend any amount, not have to disclose who they are, and they’re funded by special interests who are trying to steal elections. We ought to ban them.”

In his latest initiative Israel introduced legislation to reform the electoral college which would in effect make campaigns more competitive as well as advocating for weekend voting to increase turnout in federal elections.

As chairman of the DCCC, Israel oversees a sophisticated propaganda outfit. He can dump a fortune into your campaign war chest and optimize the use of media to sway the hearts and minds of the electorate. For example last August, ahead of the House vote to repeal Obamacare, the DCCC went on the offensive with their “Drive for 25″ campaign which targeted vulnerable GOP lawmakers on healthcare ahead of the House vote.

The initiative included television ads, online videos and robo-calls, however, despite the DCCC’s best efforts, the plan was ineffective as the Republican controlled House repealed all or parts of the Affordable Care Act more than 33 times. The ads ranged from the awe-inspiring (Check out “Health Care Victory”) to the whimsical (See The Millionaires video regarding Bobby Shilling).

While the leadership position comes with such privileges as helping fellow Dems get elected, it has also cast Israel as a national target for Republicans and the far right. Recent attacks include a NY Post story that suggested Israel’s support of the TARP program is the reason he was granted a ‘bailout’ for his home in Dix Hills. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox didn’t waste any time urging an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. “The Congressman has taken advantage of his position to qualify for a debt reduction that is supposed to be reserved for hard-working families that are experiencing a financial set back,” said Cox, adding, “It is not for a congressman that wants to avoid his obligations and a personal financial loss.”

Israel said he wasn’t fazed by the scurrilous accusations. “It’s politics as usual that Republicans, who are trying to end Medicare, would find phony issues to raise against me,” he said. “It’s unfortunate when you’re one of the national leaders trying to stop Republicans from ending Medicare to fund tax cuts for millionaires, then you should expect to be a target of their attacks – it doesn’t surprise me.”

There are plenty of battles for Steve Israel to fight for in this part of Queens, but for now the Congressman from Long Island is busy building bridges on both sides of the aisle to focus on issues challenging middle class families. “Whether you’re living in Wyandach or Whitestone it’s about strengthening the economic recovery and protecting Medicare for Seniors, and stabilizing taxes.”

Visiting Queens is something he has done for his entire life, so naturally we wanted to know his favorite deli. Cherry Valley? Chrisite’s? No, the Congressman’s favorite deli is Ben’s Kosher in Bay Terrace. He told me a story about how he how he competed in a New York deli fundraiser competition in Washington – an annual tradition in it’s 30th year run by Congressman Gary Ackerman where competitors would invite the best deli to the Hill and present a full spread to Congressman Ackerman to judge the winner.  Israel chose Ben’s Deli and his competition, U.S Rep. Jerry Nadler, chose Liebman’s Deli of Brooklyn. Each won in respective categories.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/steve-israel-dccc-chair-congressman/

Oct 27 2012

Steve Israel wants to empower the popular vote

A pragmatic proposal for a constitutional amendment would make elections more competitive.

From The Huffington Post: Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would award 29 extra Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections.

The joint resolution, filed earlier this week and referred to the Judiciary Committee for consideration, seeks to alter the way in which candidates campaign for the presidency. By increasing the importance of the popular vote, the amendment would theoretically encourage candidates to devote more time and money to states they are certain to win or lose.

“The election for president should be an election for the whole country, not just the swing states,” Israel said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “Obviously I have no intention of changing the rules for the campaign that’s underway now, but believe that we would be better served in the future if presidential candidates had an incentive to campaign in places like New York and Texas, as well as swing states like New Hampshire and Iowa.”

The 29 electoral votes Israel proposes to award the popular vote winner is the average of the 55 votes allotted to California, the most in the country, and three votes, allotted to the least populated states.

John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University, said he doubts other Democrats will back the measure, which he gives little chance of passage.

“It’s probably more likely that Democrats will conclude that Obama’s Electoral College advantage in 2012 might reflect a chronic advantage the Democrats will have going forward,” Sides said in an email. “If so, they have little incentive to reform the Electoral College.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/steve-israel-empower-the-popular-vote/

Oct 08 2012

A Clue To County’s Endorsement For Beep?

Brooklyn has the cannoli man, Queens has the kingmaker.

Melinda Katz is holding a fundraiser at Portofino restaurant in Queens where a high ranking democratic official will make a special appearance.

With the 2013 City Council races already heating up, many are wondering who will get the coveted County Endorsement and it just so happens that none other than political boss Rep. Joe Crowley will be the surprise guest at the fundraiser.

Will Crowley make a surprise endorsement?

Katz, a lobbyist, will be locked in a tough battle for control of Borough Hall with heavyweight opponents including City Councilman Peter Vallone, widely considered the frontrunner, Councilman Leroy Comrie, and State Senator Jose Peralta. Both Peralta and Comrie have considerable ties to the party, so at this point the County endorsement is really a toss up.

Even though Crowley will be attending more fundraisers, as reported by Colin Cambell,  we will venture to guess the the real clue is which fundraiser he doesn’t  attend.

George Arzt, the top former campaign advisor for John Liu, has also confirmed attendance.

Below is the invitation in case you decide to go and if you do, please send us video or audio.

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Please join us as we kick off Melinda Katz’s campaign for Queens Borough President!

With Special Guest Congressman Joe Crowley

When: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 from 6PM to 7:30PM

Where: Portofino Ristorante, 109-32 Ascan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375 

Contribution Levels: Chair: $2,500.00 * Host: $1,000.00 
Sponsor: $500.00 * Patron: $250.00 * Guest: $175.00

To RSVP & Purchase tickets please click here: https://services.myngp.com/ngponlineservices/Event.aspx?Y=FrZ0S4jyDpULauwQdqsVMKXrsKMJk0laBghz%2FcCik8SnrnTS%2FCUDVQ%3D%3D

For more information please contact Katie at (347) 494-0492 or send her an email at Katie@melindakatz.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/a-clue-to-countys-endorsement-for-queens-beep/

Sep 03 2012

All American Grace Salutes Labor Day

In honor of Labor Day, Congressional Candidate Grace Meng issued a statement supporting unions and the working men and women of America.

She also throws a well-deserved barb at the union busting activities of the Tea Party.

Press release: 

In celebration of Labor Day, Assemblywoman Grace Meng – the Democratic candidate for Congress in New York’s 6th District – released the following statement:

“Labor Day is a day we celebrate the great American work ethic and those hardworking men and women who struggled to provide us with workers’ rights and deliver us today’s landmarks of middle class security, including the 40-hour work week, child labor laws, pensions, a minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare.

“Unfortunately, the Tea Party-controlled Republican Congress is making every effort to turn back the clock on decades of labor achievements in favor of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

“Now more than ever, we must elect representatives to Washington who will stand up in support of labor’s collective bargaining rights so that working men and women may have a voice on the job, a chance to negotiate for fair pay and safe working conditions, and the ability to a secure a comfortable retirement.”

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/09/all-american-grace-salutes-labor-day/

Aug 28 2012

Are some non-profits allowed to electioneer? Feds say yes

Non-profit leeway.

At first you want to raise all sorts of questions and when you witness a non-profit blatantly electioneering you might have a sudden urge to call the IRS and scream bloody murder, but the truth is 501c4’s have a little more leeway in terms of supporting candidates than you may think.

Social welfare nonprofits, known as 501(c)(4)’s, are allowed to electioneer as long as electioneering is not their sole purpose.

Created a century ago by Congress, 501(c)(4) nonprofits were mandated that in order to receive the tax exemption, groups were supposed to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”

Eventually the IRS opened the flood gates to some forms of political activity by interpreting the statute to mean groups had to be “primarily” engaged in enhancing social welfare. According to the IRS , “Organizations exempt under IRC 501(c)(4) may engage in germane lobbying activities without the restrictions imposed on IRC 501(c)(3) organizations.”

“Germane lobbying activities” appears to be the litmus test. It’s rather ambiguous and neither the tax code nor regulators established how this would actually be measured.

So, bottom line, can a 501c4 non-profit groups endorse a candidate for office? According to IRS Rev. Rul. 81-95, 1981-1 C.B. 332, “even if the organization conducted activities involving participation and intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for nomination or election to public office, since the organization’s primary activities promoted social welfare, its lawful participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office would not adversely affect its exempt status under IRC 501(c)(4).”

Inevitably questions arise about the scope of advocacy, legislative, and common political activities permitted under the rules of a 501c4. But so it seems, a 501C4 can be vocal in supporting a candidate in an official capacity just as long as they don’t do it year round.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/08/are-some-non-profits-allowed-to-electioneer-feds-say-yes-501c4/

Jun 29 2012

Low Voter Turnout, Common Knowledge By Now

Empathy toward politics continues to grow especially in the summer heat.

From the Huffington Post: It turns out that yes,  Austin Finan, a spokesman for Grace Meng’s winning campaign,  was right: “Folks don’t vote in June.”

A court ruled that New York move its congressional primaries to June this year, instead of September, to comply with a federal law that gives those in the military time to return their general election ballots.

Tuesday’s turnout, however, was terrible.

The New York Times reports that only about 12 to 14 percent of the city’s registered Democrats voted in the city’s four big congressional races. In the 13th District, in what was billed as the marquee race of this year’s primaries, only 39,000 of the 284,000 Democrats registered to vote, voted. Charlie Rangel won the race, essentially securing himself a 22nd term.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/06/low-voter-turnout-common-knowledge-by-now/

May 29 2012

Green tags Lancman as ‘the it man’ for Congress

Rory Lancman received an endorsement from former NYC Public Advocate Mark Green. Both agree campaign finance needs reform.

“The 6th District and America need to stop big corporate money from privatizing our democracy, which means public funding for public elections as we have in NYC and a DISCLOSE act so anonymous money from billionaires doesn’t buy our government,” said Green, who is the author of Who Runs Congressand Losing Our Democracy, as well as the author of the multiple matching funds for small donors part of the City’s campaign finance law.  “Because Rory Lancman has been a leader to take the ‘for sale’ sign off our State government, I’m to endorsing him today because he’ll continue to lead that charge when he gets to Washington. We need a smart, strong progressive voice in Washington –Rory’s it.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/05/green-says-rory-is-the-man/

May 10 2012

Lancman Campaign in Talespin

Rory Lancman may have secured a few endorsements today but his worst fear is now a reality.

Grassroots candidate Robert Mittman wins in court and may split Lancman’s core voter base.

Press Release

Mittman Campaign Scores Legal Victory, Secures Spot

on Ballot for the June 26, 2012, Democratic Primary   

Bayside, NY:   Today, the grassroots campaign of Dr. Robert Mittman for Congress scored its second victory blunting the efforts of one of his opponents from knocking him off the ballot in Queens Supreme Court.  Today’s latest development secures Dr. Mittman a spot on ballot for the June 26, 2012 Democratic Primary for the Sixth Congressional District.  Just days ago, Mittman had scored his first victory overcoming a petition challenge by his opponent at the Board of Elections. 

Dr. Mittman stated, “I am very happy that the will of over 2,800 resident voters of the 6thCongressional district who signed our petitions was heard loud and clear.  They, the voters will have the final word.   I look forward to this campaign and engaging the people, the press and of course my opponents with our ideas on how to fix the Healthcare System, create Jobs, jump-start theEconomy, and preserve Social Security”. 

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/05/mittman-acquires-ballot-access-lancman-smells-trouble-woopa-ny6/

Mar 29 2012

Candidate For Congress Explains Why Primaries are Important

Mike Scala, a Democratic candidate for NY’s 5th CD discusses primary elections; makes numerous sports analogies.

By Mike Scala: When you watch the news, you probably get the sense that all that matters when it comes to a congressional seat is whether it is occupied by a Democrat or a Republican.  It’s not surprising:  the balance of power in this country is largely determined by which party holds more seats.  Additionally, it’s an easy sell to present politics as a sporting event.  Right now, the red team leads the blue team 242 to 192.  A primary election doesn’t change the score, so the media doesn’t find it sexy.  The problem, however, with reducing democracy to a numbers game is that it disregards the players.  Congressional approval is at an all-time low because people aren’t satisfied with the individuals who represent us.  Instead of focusing solely on Ds and Rs, let’s start looking at who the actual candidates are.

To continue the sports analogy, a primary determines whom each team puts in the game.  While a coaching decision may not be as exciting as a slam dunk, it absolutely impacts the result.  Jeremy Lin couldn’t have led the Knicks to seven straight wins if he were kept on the bench.  The Republicans have more seats in Congress because the Democrats continue to nominate weak candidates who refuse to fight for the people’s needs.  It’s astonishing how many times I’ve heard people say, “I don’t agree with the Republicans on most issues, but at least they have a spine.”  There are potential all-stars in the Democratic Party, but first we need to be given the ball.

A primary also keeps candidates honest.  Most obviously prefer to forego the primary process because it’s one less election they have to win.  More than that, though, no primary means they get to ride the party wave with no personal accountability.  Many districts are not swing districts.  People have their ideologies, and come Election Day they’re going to vote along party lines.  A primary forces the candidates to take a stand.  It’s easy to regurgitate party talking points, but multiple candidates vying for the same party’s nomination compels nuanced discussion.  It makes incumbents defend their records and challengers explain what they’d do differently than others in their party.  Without it, there really is no meaning behind who belongs to what party anyway.  Candidates could claim the popular party and govern as if they belonged to the other.  And that essentially renders the scoreboard meaningless.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/03/candidate-for-congress-explains-why-primaries-are-important/

Feb 12 2012

Crowley The Cash Cow

http://fairimmigration.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/crowley.jpg

Don’t look at me. That’s how the system works.

Queens County Democratic Boss, Joe Crowley is a top earner in a private equities PAC.

From The PolitickerThe Private Equity & Growth Capital Council, which was formed in 2007 by several of the country’s largest private equity firms, quietly formed a political action committee last spring and began making campaign contributions this past summer. New York City Congressman Joe Crowley was one of the top Democratic beneficiaries of donations from the private equity PAC. 

PEGCC spokesman Ken Spain told Fortune’sDan Primack the purpose of the private equity PAC was to support candidates who “understand the important role that private equity plays in driving economic growth, strengthening businesses and providing financial security to millions of Americans by delivering superior returns to public and private pension funds.”

Last year, PEGCC’s PAC mostly gave money to Republicans. Campaign finance reports show it gave roughly two-thirds of the $98,000 it spent during the last year to GOP politicians. Republican Congressmen Orrin Hatch and Spencer Bachus got the most money from PEGCC with $10,000 apiece. The Democratic politicians who received the most money from the private equity PAC were South Dakota Congressman Tim Johnson and Mr. Crowley, who each received contributions of $5,000 from PEGCC.

…For full article: http://www.politicker.com/2012/02/06/private-equity-pac-showed-a-lot-of-love-to-congressman-joe-crowley/

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/02/crowley-the-cash-cow/

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Lancman On Peter Koo’s Switcharoo

“I never quite understood why he was a Republican - he’s always such a nice guy, he likes people, he likes the immigrant community,” Assemblyman Rory Lancman joked.

 

Pols rejoice as Peter Koo formally switches from Republican to Democrat, last Monday morning at the Queens Board of Elections.

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/01/lancman-on-peter-koos-switcharoo/

Jan 19 2012

Koo To Defect From GOP

Crowley sent a chopper to pick me up, Ragusa sent a Ford. What did you think I was going to do?

Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) announced he will be switching parties, according to the New York Times.

It’s not as shocking as one might think.

In a heavily Democratic district, one can only wonder what was offered to him behind the scenes. Who courted Mr. Koo, a millionaire pharmacist from Flushing?

In 2009, Koo ran against Yen Chou, a Democrat who owns a daycare facility. The primary was vicious, and Koo emerged the victor after the Dems tore each other apart. Many insiders considered it a fluke.

The switch could have been totally unexpected, and the Queens County GOP may not have known it was coming. But it still hasn’t officially happened yet.

Food for thought:

Rumors of a gerrymandered ‘Asian Majority’ district for a Senate seat could have motivated him.  Is it a numbers game? Is Mr. Koo questioning the worth of being a Republican? The area is heavily Democratic and Koo could have feared a well-funded and supported Democratic challenger for Council or for the Senate seat, should he decide to run.

Koo, long considered a centrist has taken many positions favorable to Democratic kingpins like Christine Quinn that could ease the transition.

Is he angry with the local GOP party for a lack of support and constant infighting?

Keep in mind Koo is a millionaire and can self-finance his own run.  After all he was originally registered as a Democrat. Just speculating, if Mark Weprin becomes speaker, Koo could be Finance chair, that’s if he’s a Democrat. If he’s a Republican, then he might be on the lowly housing committee (Republicans cannot chair committees).

Being a successful small businessman might help Koo ease through the transition.

What do you think?

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FYI, during Mr. Koo’s run for City Council in 2009, Dennis Gallagher  worked on his campaign setting up stanchions that were emblazoned with ‘property of Mike Riccatto’ in downtown Flushing.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/01/koo-to-defect-from-gop/

Dec 14 2011

The Last Of The Clubhouse Bosses

Where have you gone Tony Seminerio? The NYC mayoral candidates turn their lonely eyes to you. It was the mid-nineties and the sun was blazing down on Ozone Park. Giuliani was in the hot seat at Gracie Mansion, he had just become the GOP Mayor earlier that year thanks to a powerhouse political club in South Queens.

Strolling down the block past La’ Bella Vita on any given evening you could hear the sounds of Frank Sinatra and the clinking glasses of a toastmaster. Tony Seminerio sat at the back table, the pungent aroma of cigar smoke would fill the stillness of the air as the revolving door opened and closed at what seemed like a thousand times a night.

It was that time of year again and the candidates were getting ready. Mayoral hopefuls had descended from their chic towers in the burgeoning metropolis to make the ten-minute journey over the East River and into Queens to jockey for district endorsements.

And it was then when Assemblyman Tony Seminerio was in his prime. He was already in the state Assembly for twenty years and was already a legend. He would walk in and everybody who worked the room went wild. Thousands of constituents would ask him for help, elected officials across the state would come to pay respect to a larger than life Assemblyman.

When Tony walked into a room in south Queens everyone acknowledged him. It was out of respect. A hundred people would rise to their feet as levity was swept away by pure admiration. “Hey how ya doin’ Tony good to see ya” said the doorman. “Not too bad kid I sent your son’s resume to City Hall.” Tony responded with his thick Queens accent, a question he must have been asked a thousand times before.

Tony pulled off the political Lufthansa heist for the Mayors Seat in the nineteen nineties, and he was in the perfect position to do so.

Everyone was about to find out, the 38th A.D Democratic club didn’t shine shoes anymore.

It felt like it was 1955. Tony would throw parties; classy parties and the young heavy metal looking guys would drink beer next to the men donning their Armani suits sipping cocktails. The spirit of fraternity permeated the air. In this clubhouse, brotherhood reigned supreme. The stock 1950s characters lined up at the bar comparing campaign stories, plotting their next moves and generally shooting the concordant breeze. It was an old school atmosphere, a rebirth, a renaissance, a snapshot back in time into the glory days of yesteryear where everyone was considered family.

The club’s prowess and reputation was built on the notorious charisma of Assemblyman Tony Seminerio – a cigar smoking, red wine drinking tough guy that could have been a character in a Scorsese film but was also known to have a heart of gold and would make an effort to help as many people as he could whenever they needed it. He was Tony the Gent. When people came to him with a real workable problem Tony often got misty eyed and took his personal time to help them in any community affair. While most legislators barely help constituents within their legislative duty, Tony would go above and beyond and do anything he could to help.

When most legislators have press conferences filled with false promises and false actions, Tony never held a press conference; he would assist people in total silence.

In the Mid-nineties, Tony was able to walk through the doors of Pataki’s office, Bruno’s office, and Giuliani’s office without a slight step.

Sheldon Silver’s staff called him the dream killer,

he was the only democratic lawmaker whom after Sheldon silver passed a bill in the state Assembly had enough clout with the republican state Senators to have the bill killed. In 1988, Tony helped state Senator, Serphin Maltese get elected and as payback Tony was gerrymandered to send a message, don’t ever help out the GOP. But instead of getting rid of him, they made him.

At Tony’s meetings, Giuliani would come in with his P.B.A entourage and sit at the opposite table as Queens Democratic boss Tom Manton the predecessor of Joe Crowley while Alan Hevisi would work the room.

Tony’s club had become the base for Republican chieftains like George Pataki, Al Stabile, Thomas Ognibene and Dennis Gallagher – they all had a home at the club. Tom Long would walk in and Tony would greet him with the respect that a Statesman would deserve.

The republicans would sometimes sit next to Chuck Schumer and Anthony Weiner. It was a weird hodgepodge but while most clubs are lucky to get their Assembly Member to show, hundreds danced while Tony Seminerio sang Italian songs.

Before he was elected to Assembly, Tony served as the Vice-President of the powerful Correction Officers union. Even though he was a social conservative and a pro-life advocate, Tony never swayed from his union roots. In return for supporting pro union legislation, the unions offered him political support – boots on the ground, which became his operative base.

Tony’s ascension to political boss climaxed as the point man, the go-to-guy for candidates vying for the votes in Queens. Hundreds owed him allegiance because he was masterful in his selection for patronage posts and favor trading.  When Giuliani struggled with the Queens GOP, he went for a sit down with Tony. After all, the 38th AD was the only district Pataki took in ’98 outside of Staten Island.

Tony had a legion of lawyers, union officials, correction officers, and constituents whom would work at his behest.

Before the dawn of the Internet and social networking, Tony would make one phone call and could organize a busload of hardened campaigners and send them to any part of the city to aid an election. He even had a group of young heavy metal guys called The Vultures whom hung out in Forest park. Tony would send them around knocking at doors. They were scary looking, but effective.

The 38th A.D club had a major contribution with Republicans like Thomas Ognibene, Dennis Gallagher, Serphin Maltese and Rudy Giuliani. Even Tom Long the Queens chair of the Conservative Party received a standing ovation and it was for a good reason, as a thank you. At the time, most of their campaign armies came courtesy of Tony. Even though they were Democrats, the 38th A.D club had become, in part, the foot soldiers of the Republican Party.

He also helped his fellow Dems. In 1996 when Ann-Margaret Carrozza ran against Doug Prescott, Shelly Silver made a personal request to Tony for help. In response, Tony sent a hundred foot soldiers into Bayside. Even Carrozza’s campaign manager was connected to him. Tom Catipano, who is also a former Assembly Member, had served as Tony’s consigliere for four decades.

When Eliot Spitzer ran for Attorney General of New York, he came by himself to a trattoria in Queens to kiss Tony’s ring. They brokered a deal and Tony agreed to help by sending soldiers to hand out fliers. Shortly after Spitzer’s victorious election, he took his time returning Tony’s phone calls – in a sense Spitzer was ducking him, a bad move that would later come back to haunt him as it wouldn’t be long before they would see each other again in the Capital. While standing in the well, Tony chatted amongst his colleagues.

When Spitzer walked into the room, Tony’s calm demeanor changed in the blink of an eye.

He unleashed a thunderous roar that echoed across the chamber, “Oh, you don’t return my calls? Go fuck yourself! Four years comes around real quick. ” Spitzer turned red as a group of legislators laughed at the top of their lungs.

Are there any clubs that could help out a candidate in the way Tony’s club could have helped a Marty Golden or Ray Kelly? With the Queens GOP engaged in a great civil war, the loss of clout compounded by a pyrrhic victory by Phil Ragusa over Tom Ognibene, the party is in shambles and far too fractal to field any viable candidates.

Presently, most Democratic clubs don’t fair any better than their Republican counterparts with the exception of clubs that focus on leadership, networking, attracting young people and performing community service, a winning combination.

It’s a strong formula for efficacy that is not mutually exclusive of strong leadership. The best clubs meet these requirements while  the rest are small and disillusioned by family dynasties and lobbyists connected to elected officials. For example an inside source said, “Powhattan, Tammany, it’s not what it used to be, everyone’s old.” Jumping to the other side of Queens, The Jefferson Club has twenty members and ten of them want to run for higher office. RFK is also a maturing organization. Ask certain clubs what community service they have performed lately and they’ll stare at you inquisitively, perhaps even hand over a small check – a seemingly empty gesture when compared to real political help like boots on the ground to collect petitions and help with gotv, and perhaps, maybe even a little genuine community service.

The strength of a club is measured in petitions. How many can you deliver? Typically today, the clubs are not only smaller in number then Tony’s club, not to mention aging, but they are highly unlikely to support a Republican candidate.

The conditions that put Mayor Giuliani into office no longer exist in Queens. Since then, if any Republican wants to win the Mayoralty they’d have to ally with a powerful Democratic club. Unless that happens it’s hard to imagine another Republican winning citywide office. Nowadays, a billionaire Independent can buy the election and wouldn’t even need a powerful Democratic house to bolster their ranks as the Republican party is so weak former police commissioner Ray Kelly, Marty Gold, and even Dan Halloran have been rumored to run for mayor. That’s how weak it is.

The heyday of the 38th A.D was a ten year span from 1993-2003. The club diminished when Giuliani left office and finally lost its fire when Tony had a heart attack. He couldn’t keep up with the lifestyle after his near brush with death.

Tony served as Assembly member beginning in 1978 but finally resigned in 2009 after pleading guilty to a single count of fraud, saying he had wrongly advanced the interests of a consulting client in connection with state business, according to a report in the New York Times.

In 2010, he passed away while serving out his prison sentence. With Tony out of the picture the fallout was disastrous.  Lobbying\consulting firms swelled in power and prestige as the heyday of the old clubhouse bosses came to an end.

Would Tony have payed such  groups? Doubtful, as he was his own powerbroker. This siege is underway across Queens from Astoria to Little Neck and there are only a few independent voices that stand in the way. Tony must be rolling in his grave.

To put it into perspective, Tony’s 38th A.D Democratic club was by far the largest democratic club in Queens County; it dwarfed any club that exists today. Presently, the 38th A.D Democratic club now boasts 20 members under the tutelage of incumbent Assemblyman Mike Miller and Councilwoman Liz Crowley. Down from the Seminerio heyday when there where over 750 active members.

As a citywide candidate, you can make a thousand phone calls yet it is unlikely that one political club or one Republican county organization could have a major impact. Why? Because Tony Seminerio was the last of the clubhouse bosses.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/12/the-last-of-the-club-house-bosses/

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