Republican District Leader Eric Ulrich is poised to become one of the youngest city councilmen ever to serve Queens after he handily defeated three opponents in the special election to take over the seat vacated by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), according to preliminary results reported by the city Board of Elections.
With 80 percent of precincts reporting, the 24-year-old Ulrich led the four-candidate field with 2,735votes. He was followed by Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, who had 1,238 votes, Democratic District Leader Geraldine Chapeywith 301 votes and businessman Michael Ricatto, who trailed the pack of District 32 contenders with 523votes.
The district covers Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Broad Channel and part of the Rockaways.
Ulrich, an Ozone Park resident who recently celebrated his 24th birthday, and the other three candidates could not immediately be reached for comment.
When the results are certified, Ulrich will become the youngest councilman to currently represent Queens. City Councilman Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) was the youngest councilman to ever be elected in 2001 ago at age 22.
Ulrich had the support of the borough’s GOP establishment in the nonpartisan special election.
He ran on a campaign of bringing “fresh ideas” and change to the city’s political system.
“It’s a campaign for the future. I believe if there ever was a time that fresh ideas were needed in the City Council, that time is now,” he said during the opening of his Ozone Park campaign office late last year.
Ricatto, a Republican, cited his business experience and the current economic climate in his pitch to voters in the district.
Chapey touted her experience as an educator, while Simon pointed to his years of experience as a Democratic district leader.
Turnout for the special election was slow at PS 207 in Howard Beach in the afternoon. As of 1 p.m., about 200 out of roughly 5,000 eligible voters had cast a ballot at the school.
“You can tell that we’re busy,” one poll worker said sarcastically. In the election district where she was volunteering, only two voters out of 250 cast a ballot.
A female voter who did not give her name said she voted for Ulrich “because I really don’t know anybody else.”
“He represents this area and I was thinking of voting for Simon, but he seems to have his loyalties in the Rockaways,” she said.
The voter said she was turned off by Chapey’s successful efforts to get two earlier candidates – Frank Gulluscio and Glenn DiResto – off the ballot.
“That’s why I wouldn’t vote her for dog catcher,” the woman said. “She’s a spoiler and I wouldn’t vote for her.”
An older couple said they pulled the lever for Simon.
“We saw an evaluation in the local newspaper, how five of (the candidates) were rated on the debate they had,” said the husband, who declined to give his name. “He didn’t get the highest rating, but I read one of his pamphlets.”
A few familiar faces in Queens politics were at PS 205, either to cast a ballot or to check on how the election was going.
Former councilman Al Stabile, a Republican who represented the district from 1993 to 2001, said he voted for Ulrich.
“He was a young man who worked for me at 10 years old in my district office,” Stabile said.
“I found a kid that was so different that I admired him,” Stabile said, choking up. “I see a leader who I believe will win this election.”
Phil Ragusa, the chairman of the Queens Republican Party, stopped by PS 205 with Queens GOP Vice President Vince Tabone at around 12:30 and reminisced with Stabile.
Ragusa and the Queens GOP establishment supported Ulrich in the race.
“Eric has been in the neighborhood ever since he was knee high,” he said. “He’s 24 going on 40. I think Eric has really campaigned, put in a lot of time.”
Ragusa cited Ulrich’s roots in the community in part as to why he gave the 24-year-old his support instead of Ricatto, another Republican.
“Mike’s a nice guy, but – I hate to use the word ‘carpetbagger’ – he just moved into the neighborhood,” he said.
Ricatto lived in Brooklyn before moving to Ozone Park to run in the election.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2009 Community News Group
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