Column: There’s still hope for the red parties in New York

Earlier this year, the New York State Conservative Party ushered in a new era when its long-time widely respected chairman, Brooklynite Mike Long, retired from his post. He was replaced by Jerry Kassar, a political pro who had served as leader of the Brooklyn Conservatives.

Now, the state GOP joined the game of musical chairs in its leadership.

Erie County Chairman Nick Langworthy will replace Ed Cox, a son-in-law to former President Richard Nixon. Cox held the position for a decade but announced last week that he would not seek re-election this summer, and would instead join President Trump’s re-election team.

Langworthy had been criss-crossing the Empire State meeting with Republican chairs, making the case that it was time for a change at the top and appeared to be locking up crucial support to win before Cox made his announcement.

Truth be told, I have known and respected Mr. Cox for many years as a GOPer who led the Brooklyn Young Republican Club and also as a candidate for State Assembly and City Council running on the Republican and Conservative Party lines in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Chairman Cox was a constant presence at events supporting local candidates, like myself. More importantly, he is a good man who worked tirelessly to ensure a GOP role in a deep blue state.

Now, the question is, can the new leadership in both of New York’s right-leaning parties help reverse the one party domination that Democrats have in Albany and New York City.

There are some reasons for optimism. First, Democrats may have over-played their hand by going too far left after their overwhelming victories last year, which included taking over the state Senate.

Whether it’s pushing one law after another that puts more priority on protecting criminals over law abiding New Yorkers, or literally blocking good jobs from coming to our city and state as occurred with the failed Amazon deal in Queens, the radical progressive agenda of many Albany Democrats could lead to a pendulum swing to the right among independent voters.

Other bright spots are here in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has all but abdicated his responsibilities as mayor to wander in the corn fields of Iowa, and the City Council continues its mission to make us the far-left capital of the nation by dictating food choices, banning fur, and taxing shopping bags.

For too long, it has seemed that our city GOP, including the few Republican elected officials, threw in the towel on being the loyal, vocal opposition to the Democrats at City Hall. By not having a vibrant two-party system, progressive legislation has been merely rubber stamped without real debate.

Thankfully, some local GOP leaders are stepping up and declaring enough is enough. For example, Staten Island City Councilman Joe Borelli is about to put his name on the city map with his campaign for NYC Public Advocate. Borelli, a smart and conservative voice, will offer a strong contrasting vision to the current officeholder, Jumaane Williams. Borelli recently made city news in his call for Mayor de Blasio to resign, stating, “Chasing the toughest job in the country doesn’t leave much time to do the second toughest.”

Additionally, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis — Brooklyn’s only GOP elected official — stepped up to challenge de Blasio in 2017 when no one else would. She was able to put him on the defensive on many issues, including the unfairness of our property tax system and his refusal to cooperate with federal officials to deport illegal aliens that have committed many other crimes. Today, she continues to be one of the very few, but vocal voices taking on the far-left at City Hall and in Albany.

Finally, a big challenge and goal for the city and state GOP is to bring millennials into the tent. To this end, since her election as Manhattan Republican chairwoman in September 2017, Andrea Catsimatidis has proved to be an ideal spokesperson for this mission. Her passion and common sense approach to politics and government has made her a regular on the cable news circuit. In addition, about a year ago she was elected New York State GOP Regional Vice Chairwoman representing New York City.

So, all is not lost for our red parties here. New Yorkers need and deserve a real two-party system, but for this to happen there must be more vocal leaders like Borelli, Malliotakis, and Catsimatidis to inspire a new generation of Republicans. Chairmen Langworthy and Kassar have their work cut out for them, but there is hope.

Bob Capano has worked for Brooklyn Republican and Democrat elected officials.