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Haggerty, former boro GOP chair, dies at 71

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John Haggerty Sr., one of the most influential Republican political figures in Queens and New York State for more than two decades, from the late 1960s through the 1980s, died last week. He was 71.

Haggerty served as Queens Republican Party chairman from 1984 to 1989, and is perhaps best remembered for his tenure as chief counsel to state Senate majority leader Warren Anderson (R-Binghamton) from 1973 to 1988. His influence stretched statewide, as he also joined the staff of state Senate majority leader Earl Brydges Sr. (R-Niagara Falls), serving as his chief counsel from 1968 to 1973.

"My dad said many times he was the best chief counsel he ever had," said Earl Brydges Jr., an attorney in Lewiston, N.Y. "He had a very good personality and a very good sense of humor. Even under pressure he could always come up with a laugh."

Haggerty retired from state politics in 1988.

Haggerty was born to Irish immigrant parents and grew up in Woodside, the youngest of five children who survived infancy. He had a lifelong interest in politics, but had started out with other goals, his son Bart said.

"Originally he wanted to be a doctor, but he ended up being a lawyer," Bart Haggerty said.

John Haggerty attended Fordham University for college and law school, completing his J.D. in 1961 and spending three years in Florida in the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps before going to Albany to work on the counsel staff, Bart Haggerty said.

Haggerty ran twice, unsuccessfully, for Congress, in 1966 and 1968, coming "quite close" to unseating 30-year incumbent James Delaney (D-Long Island City) in his second bid, Bart Haggerty said.

"He had a very long, very productive, very impressive political career. He was highly thought of, even by Democrats," said TimesLedger political columnist Dee Richard.

State Sen. Serf Maltese (R-Glendale) was Haggerty's law school classmate and called him a great lawyer and Republican.

"He was the go-to guy, and unquestionably one of the most powerful men in the state," Maltese said. "Sen. Anderson posed more confidence in him than anyone else in the state Senate."

Haggerty is survived by two sons, Bart and John Jr.; daughter and son-in-law Marianne and Thomas Zidar, of Chicago; brother and sister-in-law Bert and Eileen Haggerty, of Garden City, L.I.; sister Noreen Haggerty, of Breezy Point; and four grandchildren.

Haggerty was predeceased by his wife, Elizabeth, in 1984.

Haggerty's funeral mass was held Saturday at the Church of Our Lady of Mercy in Forest Hills. He was buried at St. John's Cemetery in Middle Village.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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