2005-07-27 / Political Page

Bloomberg Could Get Queens GOP Unity If Ognibene Is Knocked Off Ballot

Thomas Ognibene appears to be in a very vulnerable position. The petitions he filed with the Board of Elections to get on the Republican primary ballot have been challenged by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Reportedly, Ognibene, formerly a Middle Village City Councilmember, filed 8,116 signatures of which 7,500 must be valid for him to get on the September 13 ballot. That means the challengers to the petitions need find only 617 invalid signatures to get Ognibene disqualified from running.

In fact, an Ognibene spokesperson said, only 7,956 signatures had been filed, which means 460 invalid signatures would get Ognibene off the ballot.

If the mayor succeeds in dumping Ognibene, the mayor’s re-election bid in Queens would receive virtually total Republican Party support.

Already on board behind the mayor are the Whitestone Republican Club in Northeast Queens, a sizeable faction, plus its most well-known member, state Senator Frank Padavan (R–C, Bellerose).

The Forest Hills Republican Club, which covers Forest Hills, Rego Park, Glendale and Middle Village, also endorsed the mayor on May 25. The club, headed by President Matt Hunter, calls itself a reform organization. It’s in the 28th Assembly District and the areas that comprise it also make up the council district formerly represented by Ognibene and now represented by Councilmember Dennis Gallagher.

Hunter said the club has opposed Ognibene, dating back to his days in the council.

Ognibene is endorsed by the official Queens Republican organization headed by state Senator Serphin Maltese (R–C, Middle Village). If Ognibene is knocked off the ballot, Maltese is expected to lead his supporters into Bloomberg’s camp, giving the mayor nearly total Republican support in the borough.

However, Ognibene is not giving up on his intention to challenge the mayor in the September 13 primary. His spokesperson said that if the Board of Elections disqualifies him from running, Ognibene will appeal in state court and, if necessary, also in federal court.

Meanwhile, there’s also the possibility that challenges will be made to Ognibene’s petitions to get on the Conservative Party ballot. His spokesperson said that general challenges had been filed against the former lawmaker’s Conservative petition, but no specific objections had been made, to the spokesperson’s knowledge.

OGNIBENE CHALLENGERS ARE SONS OF EX-GOP HEAD: Bart Haggerty, who filed the challenge to Ognibene’s petitions, and his brother, John Haggerty Jr., who is leading the investigation into whether they are valid, are sons of former Queens Republican Chairman Jack Haggerty, according to Matt Hunter.

Hunter said both Haggertys reside in Forest Hills, as their dad did, and both are members of Hunter’s Forest Park Republican Club.

Jack Haggerty headed the Queens GOP for several years in the late 1970s when he was also chief of staff to then state Senator Warren Anderson, who was the Senate Republican Majority Leader. Haggerty senior gave up both his senate and party jobs in the early 1980s and dropped out of active political participation. Hunter said he didn’t know what Haggerty does now. His sons could not be reached for comment.

ELSEWHERE ON THE MAYORAL FRONT: Bloomberg continued his fabulous showings in straw polls, winning two more over the past week and also picking up endorsements from labor organizations and an abortion rights group.

Fernando Ferrer also won again among Democratic contenders, but in one poll Council Speaker Gifford Miller closed in on Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. It was the first positive movement by Miller since polling began on the mayoral race earlier this year. Congressmember Anthony Weiner continued last in the field.

Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) unveiled a plan to save area hospitals, 24 of which have closed in recent years and several others that are threatened with closure. He proposes to give the authority to build or expand hospitals, now in the governor’s hands, to the mayor. Weiner also wants to give some of the damages recovered in Medicaid fraud cases to the financially troubled hospitals. He proposes having the city assist in setting up networks between hospitals and churches as well.

OTHER CITYWIDE CONTESTS: Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., who has no opposition for re-election, started his campaign for a second term with endorsements from former Mayors David Dinkins and Edward Koch. Thompson is expected to run for mayor in 2009, when he won’t have to face Bloomberg who appears to have an easy re-election run ahead of him this year.

In the other citywide race, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, running for re-election, described a campaign ad of her main opponent, Norman Siegel, as tacky.

The ad features survivors of two 9/11 Fire Department victims. In it Siegel promises to try to improve the safety of rescue workers. Other expected challengers to Gotbaum are Andrew Rasiej, a businessman; Damon Cabbagestalk Jr., a recent college graduate, and Eric Ruano–Melendez, who has often run in other elections in recent years.

CHANCES FOR FREE SUNDAY PARKING LOOK GOOD: A bill to provide free parking at meters on Sunday, introduced by Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D–Corona) is scheduled for a vote today with excellent prospects for its being passed. In fact, council sources say there are 41 members out of 51 ready to vote for it. A mayoral veto will probably be overridden.

Monserrate, who believes meters near churches are really an imposition of a “go-to-church” tax, says, “We believe there should be no tax on worship.”

The mayor has called the bill fiscally irresponsible, noting the $7 million in lost revenues the city faces if the bill passes.

ANOTHER CALL TO SHUT ARAB BANK IN NYC: Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) has joined colleagues Anthony Weiner and Carolyn Maloney in calling for the immediate closing of Arab Bank PLC in New York City.

Like Weiner, Crowley said, “The flow of money into the Arab Bank raises tough questions of this so-called bank and their role in funding terrorist organizations.”

Arab Bank is a Jordanian bank with “well documented ties to Middle East terrorism,” Crowley charged. Weiner has filed legislation authorizing the United States to revoke the bank’s charter.

DOCS ENDORSE SEARS: In its first such action, the Doctors Council, a 3,000-member union of attending physicians based largely in city municipal hospitals, has endorsed Councilmember Helen Sears for re-election.

Dr. Barry Liebowitz, the organization’s president, said Sears (D–Jackson Heights) is “a vocal and important member of the city council’s Health and Finance Committees and an experienced hospital administrator who understands the value of the public health system and our society’s obligation to provide health care to everyone.”

Tomorrow Sears is opening her campaign headquarters in the Bruson Building at 74-09 37th Ave., Suite 306A, Jackson Heights, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

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