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Political Action: Boro GOP must be unified to make meaningful impression

TimesLedger Newspapers

The Queens Republican Party intra-county struggle for control continues. Earlier in the year, it began with the petition drive with both sides in certain state Assembly districts fielding different candidates for district leader and county committee.

Once petitions were filed with the state Board of Elections, there were petition challenges. Some of these challenges went to court. The next step was intra-party primaries, especially for district leaders. The county organization, led by Phil Ragusa, won four of the six leadership primaries, which put it in a strong position leading to the county committee convention in September.

The insurgents, led by Bart Haggerty and Thomas Ognibene, chose not to attend the county convention, which has the authority to elect the county chairman and county officers for the next two years. They instead held their own convention with their supporters. Ragusa was re-elected at the regular county committee meeting by a wide margin. The insurgents are claiming they have control of the county Republican Party and that they have elected Ognibene Republican county chairman.

Ragusa and the regular organization have taken legal action to block the insurgents’ efforts. There have been counter legal efforts by the Ognibene-Haggerty forces.

These matters will be resolved in court in the near future. It should be pointed out that in recent years the courts have decided in favor of the regular organization in similar legal actions.

In a recent interview I had with Ragusa, he spoke about the Ognibene challenge.

“Ognibene has done little or nothing to help improve the Queens Republican Party, since leaving his City Council office in 2001, other than to run for public office four times and lose four times,” he said. “In fact, in 2009 during my tenure as county chairman, we won three City Council seats. Ognibene lost a City Council race by a wide margin. In the last few years, Ognibene has not supported county fund-raising events. He has rarely been in touch with our county organization.”

I then asked Ragusa what he considers to be his major achievements during his almost five years in office as Queens Republican Party chairman.

“I am proud of the Queens County Republican Party’s achievements, including establishing a permanent county headquarters,” he said. “In 2010, we ran more candidates for public office than has been the case in recent times. As I said, we won three City Council seats in 2009. We just won the special congressional election in the 9th Congressional District, with Robert Turner winning the race.”

He further indicated that when the 9th District was open for a special election, there were 12 potential Republican candidates who applied for the designation of the regular county organization, including Turner. Ragusa believed that the county organization had an obligation to interview and consider each candidate before deciding.

“We finally decided that Robert Turner was the best candidate at the time and we endorsed him,” he said. “The election results proved us right.”

Ragusa also mentioned the 32nd Council District, represented by Eric Ulrich (R-Howard Beach). In 2009, he emphasized that the regular county organization designated and endorsed Ulrich as the official Republican candidate. The county organization supported him in his election success that year.

The chairman indicated that the recently concluded regular county convention proved that the present Republican county organization has the support of a majority of the county committee and is the duly elected organization.

Ragusa also mentioned that if their present adversaries are willing to stop their attacks on the county organization and if suitable arrangements can be made, the regular group is willing to negotiate with them about ways to bringing an end to intra-county party warfare.

Most everyone agrees that next year is shaping up to be an important election year. Nationally, statewide and locally, a united political party operation is needed if success is to be achieved.

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