Joann Ariola recently announced that she is running for the post this November. She will be taking on Councilman Donovan Richards, who won the Democratic Primary over the summer.
It won’t be easy for the Howard Beach resident to defeat Richards. Democrats in Queens, like the rest of the city, have a solid majority among registered voters.
Queens voters have shown, in certain pockets of the borough, that they are amenable to crossing party lines and electing Republicans, although that is not as common in borough-wide races. But as an avowed supporter of President Donald Trump’s re-election, it’s unlikely Ariola will be able to sway the moderate voters who, while registered Democrat, might be tempted to vote red.
And Ariola is taking a page from Trump’s re-election playbook, running on a promise to restore law and order and attacking Richards for some of his past stances on the NYPD.
Richards chairs the Public Safety Committee in the City Council, and has supported legislation to reform the Police Department. He voted against the budget in July because it didn’t cut enough funding to the department.
Richards doesn’t seem fazed by his new challenger. He already refers to himself as “QBP-Elect” in his Twitter bio.
Hey, as least the GOP found a member of their own party to run, as opposed to tapping the most conservative Democrat among the primary loser to run on their line, as they have done in the past.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ariola announcing her candidacy is that she will be stepping aside as the leader of the Queens GOP.
For those of you new to the inner workings of the Queens GOP, two differing factions – which to make things simple are basically divided into Republicans in the northern part of the borough and Republicans in the southern part of the borough – have for decades been locked in a bitter fight to control the party.
Once a formidable challenge to the Democratic Party, the infighting has practically made the party useless when it comes to running credible challengers in borough races. The lack of a unified party makes things like gathering petition signatures, providing legal help to candidates, and fundraising all that more difficult.
Ariola took over the post from former Congressman Bob Turner, who was supposed to by the person to unify the party, but instead aligned himself with Bart and John Haggerty, whose father, John Sr., many blame for being the person to first stoke the flames of division back in 1987, when both he and Sheldon Farber claimed to be the chair of the Executive Committee.
Ever since then, the legitimacy of the chair has been an on-again, off-again topic of debate.
Back in 1987, the dysfunction was first made apparent when Donald Manes committed suicide, leaving the borough president’s office open, and the Republican Party struggled to find a candidate to run. They also failed to nominate candidates for eight judgeships that same year.
Eventually the late Estelle Cooper, who many remember as assistant parks commissioner of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, would run on the Republican line.
In a New York Times article, she was quoted as saying, “Whatever is left of our party is slowly being killed.”
While it’s not dead yet, the party has been on life support for quite some time now. Perhaps a new chair can finally bring some unity to the Queens GOP and run candidates that have a real shot against Democrats in the borough, but too many people are going to have to swallow some pride and make concessions they have been unwilling to do in the past, so we’re not too confident that will change now.