2012-03-22 / A Hometown View From Albany

A Hometown View From Albany

Three Seek To Unseat Gillibrand As Junior U.S. Senator
By Marc Gronich
Capital Bureau Chief

Area Congressman Bob Turner is among three candidates to receive the U.S. Senate nomination from the New York Republican State Committee vying to unseat incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a freshman Democrat.

At the state convention in Rochester on Friday, Manhattan attorney Wendy Long garnered 47.5% of the weighted vote among convention delegates, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos received 27.4 percent of the delegate votes and Turner, a late-comer to the race, barely made the cut, cobbling together 25.1 percent of the vote. Candidates needed a vote total of at least 25 percent of the convention delegates to avoid the arcane, convoluted and expensive statewide petitioning process.

“I won in a district that's not going to be too much different than the state,” Turner told conventioneers in a monotone, sobering and less-thaninspiring 14-minute speech prior to the vote. “I know that to win you're going to have to come out of the city with more than 35% of the vote. I think we can do that. We can win the outer boroughs.”

Then Turner, 70, started to unleash some of his secret weaponry.

“I offer one thing that is absolutely essential here: credibility with the Jewish community. That is a critical point in New York. I'm telling you it works. I've been there and I'll do it again. More importantly, I have established some credibility with this win. People know who I am, both in the media and in the fundraising business. If we're in this to win, we need the media recognition and fundraising. I understand that it will take at least $15 million to win this race. I think I can raise it. The Wall Street people will contribute to this campaign with this credibility. They might not be as generous and vocal elsewhere and that's something for you to consider.”

The person who engineered this nomination on 72-hour notice was Kings County Republican Committee Chairman Craig Eaton, who put Turner's name into nomination.

Turner “will keep that momentum going,” Eaton told the GOP establishment. “He will spend the next eight months crossing this state. He will offer the same straight talk solutions that made thousands of Republicans, Democrats, blanks, Independents, women, men, seniors, young professionals and everyone else to pull the lever for him. He has done it already and he can do it again.”

To show that Turner had statewide support, Fulton County Republican Committee Chairwoman Sue McNeil seconded the nomination with the shortest speech of the day, all of 18 seconds.

While the Queens delegation supported Turner unanimously, Brooklyn was not in lock step. Of the 40 members of the Kings County delegation, the largest in the state, 38 went with Eaton.

Lucretia Regina-Potter and Michael Bennette, from Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge, were the two holdouts who sent in proxies for Maragos. They belong to the LaGuardia Republican Organization, where Regina-Potter is an officer. The founder and executive chairman of the organization is former Assemblyman Arnaldo Ferraro, an Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1961 at the age of 25. That is the reason the pair did not follow suit with the county chairman.

Maragos, 62, who has been campaigning across the state for almost a year, said he met with the Kings County Republican Committee the Wednesday before the convention but says he does not know the two committeemembers.

“I addressed the issues affecting the minority communities and that resonated with some of them,” Maragos told the Canarsie Courier. “It's exciting for the Republican party of New York to elect an immigrant and I think that is going to resonate and give voice to most of New Yorkers who are immigrants.”

Turner, who never misses a beat, also chimed in, letting the conventiongoers know that he is Irish Catholic. He said he has a “fight or flight mechanism and I have too much Finnian blood coursing through my system.”

Besides receiving the highest vote totals at the GOP convention, Long, 51, a New Hampshire native, also received the unanimous support of the state Conservative party on Monday. Kings County Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar seconded Long's nomination at the convention.

Long's focus is to blunt the female vote for Gillibrand, not draw upon differences between herself and her two primary opponents.

Republican State Committee Chairman Ed Cox said he hopes the primary season, which ends on June 26, will be clean and remain positive among the three contenders.

“Where you have candidates who are not known statewide or have not run a race before, it is good for them to be tested in a primary so long as they follow Reagan's 11th commandment, which, in the present vernacular, is 'thou shalt not go negative on a fellow Republican.' Discuss the issues just don't go negative.”

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