Conservative Party gains influence in city, state elections

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The state Conservative Party came into existence in 1962, during the time the state Republican Party was dominated by former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and the late U.S. Sen. Jacob Javits. The Conservative Party at first consisted mainly of former Republicans. As time went on, a wave of conservative Democrats also joined the party, in addition to new voters registering for the first time as Conservatives.

The party has had an impact on the state and local levels of government when it helped elect former Gov. George Pataki in 1994 and two elections after that. An important state Conservative Party victory occurred in 1970, when James Buckley was elected to the U.S. Senate on the Conservative line with a small vote on a separate Independence Party line. Buckley defeated both the Republican and Democratic senate candidates that year.

Here in Queens, state Sen. Frank Padavan’s (R−Bellerose) recent narrow victory was possible due to strong Conservative Party backing. Another example of how the Conservative Party vote made a difference was when former state Sen. Serf Maltese two years ago won a narrow victory based on Conservative Party support.

In 1991, there were four candidates competing for the Republican nomination to run for the City Council in the 19th District in northeast Queens. The Queens Conservative Party endorsed Mike Abel. One of the three candidates not endorsed challenged Abel to a Republican primary and lost decisively. Abel would hold that Council seat with Conservative Party backing for 10 years.

It used to be that the Conservative Party, in addition to running its own candidates, endorsed mainly Republicans. That is slowly changing, with Democrats being increasingly considered. For instance, in the 19th Council District, now represented by Tony Avella (D−Bayside), three Democratic candidates have expressed their interest in obtaining Conservative Party endorsement.

They are Paul Vallone, Debra Markell and Jerry Iannece. All have been interviewed by the Queens Conservative Party Executive Committee. Both Vallone and Iannece recently attended a Queens Conservative Party dinner.

In the case of Iannece, he was recently re−elected as chairman of Community Board 11 by a unanimous vote of its members. He had previously served as board chairman for five years.

The Queens Conservative Party chairman is Thomas Long, who has served in that position since 1992. Long has indicated that the party is trying to rebuild through ideas.

He said, “I feel the state and city are in bad shape with the tax increases. It is time to downsize government.”

Long further pointed out that the recent county dinner had one of the largest turnouts in a long time. He hopes to have his party endorsements completed soon, although what the Conservative Party will do regarding the mayoral race is uncertain at this time. The party, however, does not look with favor on another Bloomberg administration.

Looking toward next year and the governor’s race, the Conservative Party would give serious consideration to Rudy Giuliani, should he decide to run. Although the Conservative Party did not support him when he ran for mayor, times have changed and the party this time would be receptive to a Giuliani candidacy.

The 20th Council District of Flushing, Mitchell Gardens, Kissena Park, Auburndale and parts of Whitestone is presently held by John Liu (D−Flushing), who has announced his intention to run in a Democratic primary for city comptroller.

Therefore, an open seat has been created. There are four Democrats who are interested in running for that seat. The former Republican candidate for the state Senate, Peter Koo, who ran unsuccessfully last year against state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone), has shown an interest in running for that seat this year.

Lots of things have to be sorted out yet before all candidates are chosen to compete in the 2009 citywide elections.

Updated 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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