There’s a reason why we call our home "The People’s Republic of New York."
Even so, while Democrats have enjoyed a huge advantage in voter enrollment for decades, they've rarely enjoyed total control of state government.
It can’t be said that there weren’t opportunities for Republicans to make inroads in the Big Apple. For example, local Republicans pulled off an improbable win in 2011 when businessman Bob Turner sent shockwaves through the nation when he captured the historically-Democratic seat held by disgraced Congressman Anthony ("Carlos Danger") Weiner.
Then there is the swing district of Staten Island that bounced between Republicans and Democrats after another disgraced long-time Congressman, Vito Fossella, resigned.
So finding the GOP ballot line is not an entirely foreign experience for New Yorkers.
The death march of the New York GOP began in 2009.
At that time, in a desperate move to retain control of the chamber containing the last vestiges of relevancy, state senate Republicans led by now-convicted former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, cut a deal with now-convicted Democratic ex-senator named Pedro Espada, and a now-convicted Democratic ex-senator named Hiram Monserrate to run a majority coalition.
Then in 2011, when Republicans were once again outnumbered, Skelos cut another deal with a disgruntled coalition of Democrats — a last gasp of a party withering on the vine —remaining until this year.
Republicans in New York were living on borrowed time. Time that they squandered, as they made no real strides to build a bench of candidates with a statewide following.
Party leaders, led by Chairman Ed Cox, were content to live off of the tenuous deal, control some offices at the federal, state, and municipal levels outside of New York City.
They were also willing to rely on independently wealthy, and self-funding candidates for failing statewide tickets. Thus, the seeds of this year’s failure has been sown, but the failings of the state party this election cycle are equally glaring.
The eventual breakdown of the state Senate coalition happened, followed by an reinvigorated push by Democrats to punish Republicans and their turncoat colleagues, left the party’s lone remaining power base pathetically scrambling in the face of one of the most aggressive and energized opposition efforts.
Finding a consensus gubernatorial candidate proved just as difficult.
Republicans waited beyond the last-minute to back their horse after a potential self-funding candidate, hedge fund billionaire Harry Wilson, declined to run.
After months of hand-wringing, the party settled in the spring on Marc Molinaro, a talented county executive. But in turning to Molinaro so late in the game, the state GOP robbed him of any opportunity to gain either the traction or funding necessary to win.
The delay turned out to be an opportunity lost as Molinaro, who to his credit, earned more votes than any previous Republican running statewide has received since 2002.
How slim were the candidate pickings for the New York GOP?
Republicans had no choice but to embarrassingly turned to a Democrat, Jonathan Trichter, to be their nominee for state comptroller.
At the federal level, we can thank the lack of foresight of GOP leaders for the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of running a viable candidate, local Republican leaders got caught with their collective pants down after Rep. Joe Crowley was upset in his primary, giving their line to a terrible place-holder candidate that they ditched after his checkered past came to life — they even admitted to never vetting this "winner."
With the exception of truly strong and organized incumbents like Rep. Pete King and Rep. Lee Zeldin, there was no energy, enthusiasm — or leadership.
Then when the time came to grow a base — you know, their actual job - the New York Republican leadership failed miserably. While Democrats enjoyed hundreds of thousands of new registrants in the run-up to the midterms, Republicans signed up a paltry 1,435 new voters statewide.
It was like the party wasn’t even trying.
The results, as we know, were disastrous.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo handily won re-election, congressional seats across the state evaporated, and both houses of the state legislature are now solidly Democratic.
How did it get to this point?
There exists no one reason.
The fact is that the New York Republican Party has been withering from within, with different root causes. In some areas, functioning local party apparatuses were dismantled — some by political backstabbing, others by open conflict and ostracism of good people with no reconciliation, and certainly no coalescence to engage a common Democratic adversary.
For the most part, party-building was cast aside in the name of preserving dwindling power bases. Over-reliance on a consultant class vampirically siphoned the life-blood of campaigns became an epidemic.
With control of redistricting at stake in the 2020 elections, New York Republicans are out of time. Either they get their act together in a hurry or they go extinct for a generation.
Unless there is a radical change of leadership and direction, the latter seems like the most likely outcome.
Gene Berardelli is a street-smart trial attorney who, through his time as the Law Chair of the Republican Party in Brooklyn, New York, has developed a solid reputation as an election attorney successfully representing conservative candidates.
Russell Gallo is a security expert and combat veteran who attained the rank of First Sergeant in the New York Army National Guard, earning a Combat Action Badge in Iraq. Together, they host Behind Enemy Lines Radio, a national award-winning radio show and podcast broadcasting out of "The People's Republic of" New York that airs weekly on AM and FM radio stations as part of the Talk America Radio network. To read more of their reports — Click Here Now.
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