Dan Halloran, Peter Koo, and Eric Ulrich all won their respective general elections last Tuesday. They will join two members of the GOP from Staten Island, bringing the total number of Republicans in the 51-seat legislative body to five.
While it is difficult to measure the role that voter dissatisfaction played in the outcome in a city where registered Democrats far outnumber Republican voters, Queens County Republican Party chairman Phil Ragusa believes that general displeasure with government at all levels played a role in giving the GOP their biggest gains in nearly a decade.
“There's a lot of dysfunction in government,” said Ragusa. “People are upset with Washington, they are upset with Albany, and they are upset with City Hall.”
Ragusa said that running three strong candidates, two in races that were open seats as well as incumbent Ulrich, didn't hurt either.
“I was impressed myself with the people we put up to run,” he said. “Four of them had a real great chance and we pulled three of them through.”
Probably the least surprising victory was Ulrich, who represents South Queens. Ulrich won the seat in a general election in February to replace Joseph Addabbo, Jr., who left the City Council for the State Senate, and earned a full four-year term last Tuesday. Ulrich said he believed that his during his short time in office he impressed the voters of the district.
“There is no substitution for hard work, whether it be in life, politics, or business," he said. "It pays dividends, and we did a lot of hard work. I put in a lot of work during my seven months in office, and people liked what I did.”
Koo, meanwhile, will be the first Republican to ever represent Flushing in the City Council and the second person of Asian descent, replacing John Liu, who left to pursue a successful bid for city comptroller. Koo said that he believed, in the end, that his record of community service was more important to voters than party affiliation.
“The party doesn't decide what is best for our community,” he said. “This was a race between my leadership and experience and my opponent's.”
In the neighboring district of Bayside, Halloran will replace Tony Avella, who left the seat in an unsuccessful bid to challenge Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the Democratic line. Halloran's race against Kevin Kim was one of the most contentious in the city, calling into question integrity issues on both sides, from Halloran's unorthodox religious beliefs and Kim's ties to area developers. Halloran won the race by a slim margin.
Halloran said he is glad to have the campaign behind him, and ready to start working on the issues affecting the district.
"I thought the campaign would be difficult, I just didn't think that it would be as divisive as it was," he said. "When it got down to just one opponent, I was really looking forward to taking an in-depth look at the issues, but instead our campaign got hijacked by issues that had nothing to do with politics."
Now that he has been elected, Halloran is preparing to take office in January, which includes meeting with outgoing Councilman Tony Avella to review open constituent issues, as well as opening a district office, which he plans to move to a more central location in the district.
"I think that is the fair thing to do for all of the constituents," said Halloran. "We're looking at a spot on Francis Lewis Boulevard."