Public advocate candidate Eric Ulrich held a meet & greet Saturday afternoon at Staten Island Republican headquarters, drawing a small audience for a petitioning pep talk. Two Staten Island Republican elected officials, Ulrich’s fellow Council Member Steve Matteo and Assembly Member Mike Reilly, joined Ulrich for a public display of their support. Council Member Joe Borelli was expected to attend but cancelled due to a conflicting personal event. Staten Island Republican Party Chairman Brendan Lantry attended and hosted the speaking program. The party has endorsed Ulrich.
Republican Congressman Dan Donovan defeated predecessor and challenger Michael Grimm in a bitter GOP primary, trumping Grimm’s professed allegiance to Donald Trump and Trump-like personality with an endorsement from Trump. Donovan was first elected in a special election in 2015 prompted by Grimm’s resignation after pleading guilty to federal tax fraud charges and being sentenced to federal prison. Grimm returned seeking his old seat this year, in a Trump era battle in which the candidates sought to most closely align themselves with the president.
Nicole Malliotakis sought to take back the momentum in the Republican mayoral primary last night as she received the endorsement of her hometown Staten Island Republican Party, hoping to replace Masseymentum with Malliomentum. Rival candidate Paul Massey had received the endorsement of the Bronx Republican Party the night before, for his second county organization endorsement. Staten Island’s endorsement of Malliotakis was not a surprise, she’s a well-liked four term elected official, but it was nonetheless a welcome boost for Malliotakis.
A crowd of about 75 people gathered for the Staten Island party’s nominating convention, enthusiastically cheering their nominees. Incumbent Borough President Jimmy Oddo and incumbent City Council Members Steve Matteo and Joe Borelli were among the nominees, each unanimously selected without any opposing candidates. Michel Faulkner, who was not present, was endorsed for comptroller, also without opposition. As reported by the Staten Island Advance’s Rachel Shapiro, (prior to my arrival) the Party endorsed J.C. Polanco for public advocate.
Malliotakis’s acceptance speech was a mix of campaign themes and a hometown address to fellow Staten Islanders. She turned to a recent campaign theme, describing New Yorkers driven to leave the city as “economic refugees” and “quality of life refugees.” Malliotakis also touched on familiar criticisms of Mayor de Blasio, saying that he “ties the hands of law enforcement” and ignores the will of City residents in areas such as his plan to build 90 shelters for the homeless and his newly adopted goal of replacing Rikers Island with jails throughout the City.
Malliotakis voiced a central theme of Staten Island politics; that the borough is shortchanged and “we have to fight together twice as much to get half as much.” She criticized the mayor’s “five borough ferry plan” for excluding Staten Island, and said that the only thing Staten Island does get a fair share of is unwanted traffic cameras.
Malliotakis closed with promise to “bring a message of common sense and sanity” to the City and City Hall.
Here’s Malliotakis’s full acceptance speech:
On Wednesday evening Melissa Mark-Viverito released a statement listing 30 council members supporting her bid to be city council speaker. Only one Republican appears in the group of 30, Eric Ulrich of Queens.
Ulrich’s declaration of support is notable for two reasons. First, in November he reacted harshly to the prospect of Mark-Viverito becoming speaker. Ulrich was reacting to news reports of Mark-Viverito’s “reluctance to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance.” His criticism was broader, however, saying “I don’t believe that she can be an effective counterweight to the mayor” and characterizing a Mark-Viverito speakership as a “disaster.” Second, in November Ulrich also said that he expected to vote as a bloc, albeit a small one, with the two other Republicans in the new council. He now appears to be the only Republican supporting Mark-Viverito, however.
Here’s full video of Ulrich’s discussion with reporters this evening, following the final city council meeting of the current session.
We also spoke with Steve Matteo, Council Member-elect from Staten Island, who said that he was “disappointed” by Ulrich’s decision to split from his fellow Republicans and support Mark-Viverito. Matteo also suggested that Mark-Viverito’s selection is far from settled, characterizing the selection process as “in the third quarter of a football game.”
(In November, we spoke with Matteo and Council Member Vincent Ignizio, also from Staten Island and the third Republican in the new council, about the speaker’s race. Those interviews are here.)
Tonight the speaker candidate forum road show rolled out to Staten Island, with the seven publicly declared contenders appearing together for the sixth, and presumably final, time. For the first time, Republican council members joined as hosts. Ben Max, of DecideNYC.com, moderated.
Three of the 51 incoming City Council members will be Republicans, with two of those three representing Staten Island. So few in number that they have virtually no influence simply through their numbers, the Republican council members nonetheless have managed to succeed and maintain a presence exceeding what their tiny minority would be expected to generate. In the selection of the next speaker, they may well be irrelevant. If, however, the selection is a close race decided by a floor vote the three Republicans could be a meaningful bloc.
After tonight’s forum we spoke with Vincent Ignizio, a Republican council member just elected to his third term, about the role, if any, that council Republicans may play in the selection and about his view of the race.
Update – Steven Matteo:
We also spoke with Steven Matteo, Staten Island’s second Republican member of the city council. I began by asking Matteo for his reaction to the speaker candidate public forums.
Update #2 – Debi Rose:
We spoke with Debi Rose, Staten Island’s sole Democratic member of the City Council. Rose described her high regard for many of the speaker aspirants and lamented the challenge of choosing among them. The public forums have caused Rose to expand the list of candidates that she personally is open to, although she notes that she is committed to voting with the “Progressive Bloc.” We also discussed the Progressive Bloc’s timing and the reaction of council members not part of the Progressive Bloc as the Bloc has organized itself.
Be sure to watch our coverage of all five prior forums, held in Manhattan at the Talking Transition Tent and Baruch College, in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Jackson Heights. Our coverage includes conversations with many council members/member-elects about the selection process, including, in addition to Ignizio, Matteo and Rose, Corey Johnson, Karen Koslowitz, Andrew Cohen, Brad Lander, Carlos Menchaca, Ritchie Torrres and Helen Rosenthal.