The game of musical chairs among leadership of one powerful red party in local politics recently ended — just as a similar shuffle is reportedly beginning within another group of borough politicos.
Earlier this year, the long-time chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, Bay Ridgite Mike Long, announced he would step down from the post he held for three decades. Politics aside, Long earned respect from leaders in all parties because of his reputation for always being a man of his word, and standing by his principles.
And last week, state Conservative Party officials again looked to Kings County in electing their new leader — Dyker Heights resident Jerry Kassar, the former head of the Brooklyn Conservative Party, who most recently served as the state party’s vice chairman.
Kassar, who reportedly began eyeing the post following Long’s sudden exit, also worked in both houses of the state Legislature up in Albany, holding positions in the Assembly, and as chief-of-staff to former Republican state Sen. Marty Golden, during his career.
In his new role, Kassar will work closely with another Dyker Heights resident — Fran Vella-Marrone, the current chairman of the Brooklyn Conservative Party — to shape the local and state conservative agendas in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.
But as Conservative politicos move forward under new leadership, some officials within the local Republican Party are bracing for its own chairmanship battle later this year.
Many insiders assume the party’s current head, Ted Ghorra, still has the support of Golden — who, despite losing his seat of 16 years at the polls last November, continues to hold influence with rank-and-file Kings County Republican Party Committee members, who will ultimately choose the party’s chairman.
In fact, over the past two months, Golden met at least twice with Ghorra and GOP leaders, sources told this columnist. The summits’ alleged goals were to plot the party’s path forward, as well as identify and recruit Republican district leader and county committee candidates to ensure Ghorra’s re-election. Of course, a loyal and united Republican organization would be helpful if Golden decides to try and reclaim his former seat next year.
But following the election that swept Golden and other GOP pols from office, some within the local party feel it is time for a change at the top.
One of those people is Ghorra’s predecessor Craig Eaton — a rival of Golden’s who stepped down as Brooklyn Republican Party chairman in late 2015, roughly a year before Ghorra took the reins — who told me that his successor’s future atop the party is far from a sure thing.
“Ted Ghorra, who was hand-picked to lead the party without even being a member of the county committee and having no prior political experience, has had two years to prove his ability to lead the party,” Eaton said. “The result of his leadership was the devastating loss of two long-time Republican elected officials — Rep. Dan Donovan and state Sen. Marty Golden. It is clearly time for him to go. We need a seasoned political operative who has the knowledge, experience, time, and relationships to bring the Brooklyn GOP back to where it was a few years ago.”
Local Republicans and Conservatives must stay on top of their game to reverse the vast Democratic gains won last year. And needless to say, this year’s internal party politicking will surely be an exciting preview of what’s to come as next year’s local, state, and federal elections approach.
Bob Capano is a professor of political science of more than 15 years, who has previously worked for local Democratic and Republican pols, and as the chairman of the Brooklyn Reform Party.