BY LUIS GRONDA
With the passing of Phil Ragusa, the Queens GOP party has a new leader.
Robert Beltrani, who was the executive vice chairman and second in command under Ragusa, will take over as the chairman of the Queens Republican party.
According to Robert Hornak, the spokesperson for the party, its bylaws state that the executive vice chairman is automatically elevated to the head position if the chair position is left vacated. Ragusa passed away last week after a short battle with leukemia.
Beltrani is a law judge in the New York State Division of Parole. He ran an unsuccessful campaign in a special election for former State Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s seat in 2010 after he was expelled from the State Senate in relation to an assault conviction. Beltrani also ran for a position in the New York Supreme Court three times, most recently in 2012.
Hornak said Beltrani will serve out the rest of Ragusa’s term, a little more than one year, and they will reconvene for an election again in September 2015.
But who will lead the party into the future, whether it is Beltrani or somebody else, is up in the air. Hornak said it is too soon to speculate about that when asked, saying Ragusa’s death is still too fresh in their minds to discuss their long-term plans.
A spokesperson for the New York State GOP, David Laska, said it is the Queens GOP’s decision about what they should do in the future.
“With the unfortunate passing of Chairman Ragusa, it’s up to the Queens County Committee, not the State Party, to work within their bylaws to determine how to move forward,” he said in a statement.
Phil Orenstein, the head of the Queens Village Republican Club, said they will work with whoever takes over as the party head and his focus is on building up the club and trying to get more Republicans elected in Queens. The club hosted Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for Governor running against incumbent Andrew Cuomo, as its most recent meeting.
He added that the new leadership also offers an opportunity to bury the axe and end whatever conflict exists within the party.
“People are seeing more and more that we have to mend fences for the future of the party,” Orenstein said.
Earlier this year, Ragusa’s re-election was petitioned in court after questions were asked about the way the vote was handled. A coalition led by Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) wanted to overturn the vote, but a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to do so. Ragusa won re-election against former U.S. Rep. Bob Turner.
Representatives from Ulrich’s coalition did not return requests for comment.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.