Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to announce a date for the special election, but it’s expected to coincide with the primaries in September. The special election could be a boon for Republicans, who enthusiastically point to the right-lean of the district in recent years.
“The district has been trending Republican,” said Phil Ragusa, chair of the Queens County Republican Party, pointing to Presidential Candidate John McCain’s strong performance in 2008 and the City Council race in 2009, won by Eric Ulrich. “We have a good chance of taking the district.”
This week, Ragusa and the Brooklyn Republican Committee will interview potential candidates on their credentials and plans for the office. Regusa said seven or eight prospective candidates, largely businessmen and community activists, have expressed interest.
Despite the interest in the seat, especially from former candidate Bob Turner and City Councilman Eric Ulrich—neither of whom have publically announced their intent to run—potential redistricting could throw a cog in the election machine.
“Redistricting is a huge factor,” said Matt Turner, Bob Turner’s son and former campaign manager. “Someone in politics has to weigh whether the district is even going to be here.”
Regusa sees the potential redistricting as an opportunity, rather than a deterrent.
“There’s still a good year or 15 months that the district has to be run, why not by a Republican?” he said.
Since New York is slated to lose two congressional seats, most political analysts expect a Republican and a Democratic seat to be eliminated, one upstate and one downstate. Weiner’s district, edging toward a Republican vote, could be considered for elimination. But if the district goes Republican, the push to eliminate it could be taken off the table.
“If we can win the district we have a good chance of keeping it,” Ragusa said.
Funding will also be a factor in the upcoming campaign.
Bob Turner ran against Weiner in the last election, when it appeared Weiner would run uncontested. His son said that funding likely played a role in his father’s loss. Bob Turner raised less than a quarter of what Weiner spent on the campaign and received negligible funding from the State GOP.
“Last year it was not viewed as a contested seat,” Matt Turner said. “We feel it can’t be a good race without funding. The view is now, it’s open. [The district] is Democratic, but it’s not very liberal.”
Tom Vasile, executive director of the State Republican Party, said while decisions will be made at a local level, the state will be helping with selection and the campaign.
The State GOP will help to coordinate the campaign and partnerships with national committees. Additionally, it will provide financial assistance—how much will depend on the strength and scope of the campaign.
So far, it’s too early to tell what the scope of the campaign will entail. “We’re really at the beginning of the process,” Vasile said. “This is a very unique situation.”
If the election is held in September, Regusa said the Republicans could have an even better chance of taking the seat. “If this is the only election going on, we may be getting funding on a national level,” he said.
“Having someone like my father or Eric Ulrich who really want to serve would make a big difference,” Matt Turner said. “My father would defer to Eric, because he sees Eric as the future of the Republican Party.”
A source close to Ulrich said he is still weighing his options.
Regusa expects to announce the party’s candidate sometime next week.
Once Cuomo calls for the election, it must be held 70 to 80 days later.
Several Democratic contenders have also expressed interest in the seat, but the Queens Democratic Party has also remained quiet about a potential selection.
Check The Forum next week for a look into the Democratic Campaign.
by David J. Harvey