Koo makes switch to Dem Party

Councilman Peter Koo (c.) shakes hands with state Sen. Toby Stavisky (l.). Photo by Christina Santucci
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City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) officially registered with the Democratic Party Monday at the Queens Board of Elections offices in Kew Gardens after running on the GOP line three years ago to win a seat on the Council.

Koo is the wealthy owner of the Starside Drugs pharmacy chain and self-financed his campaign.

“We cherish the diversity of our party,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-East Elmhurst), chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, during a news conference Monday at the BOE. “Peter’s joining this effort is a boon to our party and I think it’s great for Flushing in particular.”

Koo said infighting within the Queens GOP was part of his decision to switch parties. He said Democrats had “more leadership” and “more members” on the Council.

“From the beginning, I was always a Democrat at heart,” Koo said.

Queens GOP spokesman Robert Hornak said the party expects to work with Koo in the future.

“We’re disappointed to see him go, but we’ve always had a good relationship with him and we think highly of him,” Hornak said.

City Comptroller John Liu, Koo’s predecessor on the Council, said Koo’s stances on social issues were more in line with Democratic views.

“The issues that he’s talked about ... [are] really much in line with our Queens delegation,” Liu said, shortly before Koo handed in his registration form to Barbara Conacchio, chief clerk at the BOE. “So it’s only rational that Peter Koo is about to be a Democrat.”

Koo’s switch to the Democratic side means Queens has only three GOP elected officials: U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) and Councilmen Dan Halloran (R-Bayside) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

“We’re used to electing Democrats, not always converting them,” Crowley said.

After Koo’s switch, Halloran said, “political parties aren’t everything.

“Peter is still my friend and colleague, and I’ll still work with him to cut taxes and create jobs in northeast Queens,” he said.

During Turner’s race, Koo went against his party and endorsed state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck).

When Koo ran in 2009, the Democratic field had five candidates running in the primary.

Koo also said the Republican presidential primary process “was a small part of my decision ... especially on immigrant issues.

“I understand how hard it is to be a newcomer,” he said.

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) joked that he was mystified why Koo first joined the Republicans in the first place.

“I never quite understood why he was a Republican,” Lancman said. “Such a nice guy. He likes people, he likes the immigrant community.”

Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), dean of the Queens Council delegation, said the party always had a good working relationship with Koo.

“We always treated you like one of our own,” he told Koo. “We always treated him as an equal part of the delegation because it’s about serving people.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 1:35 am, January 26, 2012
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