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.
Ulrich is the only Republican among the nine current and former elected officials in the race. There are a couple of Republicans among the other 22 prospective candidates, but they are far less known than Ulrich and seemingly without any meaningful party organization support.
Ulrich argues that the large fractured field of Democrats and absence of strong Republican opposition presents him with a path to victory. In Ulrich’s view drawing a substantial portion of the City’s Republican and Republican-leaning Democrats and independents, normally not nearly enough to win a citywide election, may suffice in a low turnout election with 10 or more Democratic candidates on the ballot. That path relies heavily on Staten Island, where although more voters are registered Democrats than Republicans, the Republican Party is robust and holds roughly half of the elected offices. In his visit Ulrich recognized the centrality of Staten Island for him and pledged to campaign heavily there, saying that “Staten Island is going to make or break this election for me.”
This appearance demonstrated strong but not yet universal support for Ulrich among Staten Island’s six elected Republicans in state or city office. Three of the six offered support Saturday, CM Matteo, AM Reilly and CM Borelli, and Borough President Jimmy Oddo appears likely to support Ulrich. NYS Senator Andrew Lanza’s position isn’t known to us.
The final Staten Island elected Republican, Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis, presents a challenge for Ulrich. In the 2017 mayoral race Ulrich supported Bo Dietl over Malliotakis, initially in Dietl’s efforts to win the Republican nomination over Malliotakis and continuing after Malliotakis won the nomination as Dietl ran as an independent through the general election. The Malliotakis campaign was embittered and harshly critical of Ulrich. Saturday Ulrich said that he’s spoken with Malliotakis about his candidacy and characterized their conversations as “pleasant,” but offered no indication of whether he expects Malliotakis to support his candidacy.
Additionally, public advocate candidate Tony Herbert is a political ally of Malliotakis and campaigned vigorously for her in 2017. If Herbert succeeds at petitioning on to the ballot Malliotakis may be drawn to supporting him. While far from an election-determative action, a lack of support from Malliotakis could result in an impactful erosion of Staten Island votes for Ulrich.