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Ulrich defeats Reyes in GOP primary after campaign turns negative

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Photo gallery

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Councilman Eric Ulrich leaves PS 46 in Ozone Park with his wife Yadira after voting. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Bernie Solow, president Judge Angelo Graci Republican Club in Ozone Park, casts his vote. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Juan Reyes shakes hands with Queens County Republican Party Chairman Phil Ragusa (l.). Photo by Christina Santucci
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Councilman Eric Ulrich chats with voters Bob and Connie Champa. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Juan Reyes is joined by his wife Meaghan at his headquarters in Forest Hills. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Juan Reyes makes calls to voters two hours before the polls were to close. Photo by Christina Santucci

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) defeated his opponent, Forest Hills lawyer Juan Reyes, in the Republican primary for state Senate Thursday in a campaign that turned ugly in the final days. Ulrich will face off against Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) in the general election this November.

With 87 percent of the vote counted, Ulrich won 68 percent in the Democratic primary for the 15th state Senate District to 32 percent for Reyes, according to CBS News.

The councilman also took the Independence Party primary in which he won 83 percent of the vote to 16 percent for Joseph Tiraco, one of the party’s co-founders, with CBS News reporting 87 percent of the vote counted.

“It feels great,” Ulrich told his victory party. “It’s still possible to win in this town by taking the high road.”

The 10th Senate District encompasses Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Glendale, Middle Village, Woodhaven, Maspeth and parts of South Ozone Park, Rego Park, Ridgewood and Sunnyside. Addabbo has held the seat since 2008, when he beat out the 10-term Republican Sen. Serphin Maltese.

In the final days of the campaign Reyes circulated a flier that accused Ulrich and his wife of fraternizing with an openly gay Queens councilman and his partner.

A spokesman for Reyes said the purpose of the mailer was to point out that Ulrich had flip-flopped on his support for gay marriage.

When a furor developed over the flier, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stepped up and endorsed Ulrich in the primary even though Reyes had been a staffer for the former mayor.

“You don’t have to get in the gutter, you don’t have to employ negative campaign tactics, you can win with a positive message,” Ulrich said after winning the race.

Ulrich was elected to the 32nd Council District in a special election in February 2009 and was re-elected in the general election the same year. He is an Ozone Park native and served as the Republican minority whip in the City Council. At 27, he is currently the youngest person in the Council.

He has said he is not a party-line voter and has bucked Republicans on such issues as raising the minimum wage, which he supports.

“I’m used to fighting my own party and the other party. I wear that as a badge of honor,” he told the TimesLedger Newspapers staff in an interview in August. “I think that makes me a better elected official.

Ulrich also has said as a state senator he would promote job creation, reduce the tax burden on middle-class families, protect collective bargaining rights, support school choice and protect quality of life.

He failed to secure the Queens Republican Party endorsement, which went to Reyes, but he appears to have the firm backing of the Republican State Senate Committee, which donated $250,000 to his campaign.

Reyes, who previously worked for U.S. Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Giuliani, is a partner at Reed Smith LLP specializing in land use and zoning issues. His platform centered on making New York more business-friendly by pledging to grow underdeveloped job sectors in New York to bolster employment and attract the country’s top talent.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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