Ulrich And Deacy Win Republican Posts,'Upset the Political Apple Cart' in 23rd AD
Two years ago, Ozone Park's Eric Ulrich, after allying himself with Rockaway's Republicans, came up short by just 124 votes in his effort to unseat then-incumbent Republican district leader Ed O'Hare in the 23 Assembly District. While Ulrich and his running mate, Rosemary Duffy, took Rockaway, their numbers on the peninsula weren't big enough to offset their opponents' strength in Howard Beach. But this year the story turned out a little differently. Unofficial figures in last Tuesday's Republican contest for leadership in the district give Ulrich 611 votes, vs. 410 for his opponent, Howard Beach architect John Calcagnile. At the same time, Ulrich's running mate this year, Rockaway's own Jane Deacy, swamped her opponent, Denise Walsh, also of Howard Beach, by 614 to 376.
Ulrich, a long time ally and friend of the Rockaway Republicans Club, and Deacy, a Rockaway Republicans stalwart, were jubilant at their victory party at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club Tuesday evening after the polls had closed. Speaking to a packed and clearly ecstatic house, Ulrich thanked supporters and promised "a new day" for Republicans in the district while praising his opponent, Calcagnile, as an honorable competitor who demonstrated class in defeat. Ulrich promised to work with Calcagnile and his supporters to bring all factions in the district together, after years of fruitless infighting and bickering.
Following Ulrich to the microphone, Jane Deacy assured assembled wellwishers that the new GOP leadership team plans to make room for everyone in the district as they work to rebuild the south Queens Republican Party into a credible political alternative. "It's not about which side you were on in this race," Deacy insisted, "but about working together to advance Republican principles in a difficult environment."
Tom Lynch, president of the Rockaway Republicans and longtime ally of Ozone Park's Ulrich, positively glowed as he smoked a celebratory cigar and surveyed the organization he and political pal George Greco had built in only three years, beginning with their first tentative meetings in Greco's Neponsit garage. Said Greco, who is also Chairman of the Rockaway Republicans, "It feels good to finally win one!" as he moved around the room embracing his colleagues, while Lynch noted that "this shows what you can do if you pull people together based on principle."
Lynch, Greco and a few others, including Ed Raskin of Far Rockaway, Jack Farrell from Seaside and Kevin Moroney, Harold Paez, Frank and Nina DiSantos and Joan and Don Hart, from the Belle Harbor-Neponsit area, along with many others, have been loyally plugging away at rebuilding a Republican base in Rockaway since 2004, despite a series of disheartening defeats. Although they had a significant impact on the presidential election in '04, garnering the highest vote count for President Bush in any city assembly district, their subsequent efforts haven't been as successful. In 2005, they supported fellow Rockaway Republican Jerry Cronin in a quixotic assault on Democrat Anthony Weiner's Congressional seat and in 2007, they backed another member of their group, local writer Stu Mirsky, in an equally uneven race to unseat State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer.
The Rockaway Republicans came closest to a win in 2005 when they supported Ulrich in his near-win for the district leadership that year. Now, with Ulrich and Rockaway Republican member Jane Deacy having secured control of the GOP organization in the district, Rockaway's homegrown Republican team can finally claim a much-sought-after win. Although district leadership positions are non-paid, internal party offices, they are important because district leaders set the tone for their local organizations and carry a voice in state party councils.
"This is a first step, with more to come," promised Lynch, who added that GOP leadership in the 23rd, which had been controlled from the other side of the bay since the midnineties, when the last leader from Rockaway, Tom Swift of Belle Harbor, was unseated, has "needed shaking up for a decade." According to Lynch, there was a lack of interest in mounting competitive political races against local Democrats or in building a serious party organization. "Now we can change that," he said, adding that "local leaders in the other party deserve plaudits for being engaged in ways ours haven't been. But with Eric and Jane we finally have a team with a different attitude about outreach and party-building. They'll be doing the basic things, like grooming and fielding candidates, getting our message out and even writing for The Wave, the way Democrats' local leaders have been doing for years now."
The turnout at the old Yacht Club, which included members of Ulrich's Ozone Park-based Angelo Graci Republican Club, as well as Republicans from Rockaway, was the best since the "shindigs" Lynch and his crew organized for Bush in '04. District Democratic leaders Geraldine Chapey and Lew Simon showed up to sample the food and congratulate their new Republican counterparts, as did district Conservative Party leader Tom Long. Republican activists were calling in their congratulations from other parts of the city, as well.
Said Ulrich before the evening ended: "This is the beginning, not the end, folks. Jane and I owe our victory to all those at the grass roots who worked so hard to put flesh on old Republican bones in this district again. It takes spirit and belief to win races and Republicans here in the 23rd have demonstrated they have both in abundance. Now it's time for us to come together and offer voters in the district a real choice, at last. And that's just what Jane and I plan to do."