GOP Split Deepens After Meeting

BY STEVEN J. FERRARI
Editor-in-Chief

The contentious split between Queens County Republicans has become deeper, with allegations of racism and bullying on one side and a court case filed from the other.

The latest source of discontent spilled over after the Sept. 27 reorganizational meeting, where longtime Republican leader Phil Ragusa held on to his position, despite a challenge from former U.S. Rep. Bob Turner.

Councilman Eric Ulrich

Councilman Eric Ulrich

According to members present at the Sept. 27 Queens Republican Party reorganizational meeting, a faction led by Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) made a number of racist and disparaging remarks about and towards individuals at the meeting. Some members in attendance said they felt they were bullied and belittled by Ulrich.

Ulrich was said to become increasingly agitated when the vote was not going his way. Sources say that Ulrich’s faction, which also included Bart Haggerty, Ulrich’s former chief of staff, and Tony Nunziato, a Republican District Leader in Maspeth, continued to disrupt the meeting.

Natalie Dubovici, a member of the party’s credentials committee tasked with verifying the votes, said Ulrich “was acting like a child” and made “a mockery” of the process. She noted that Ulrich and his companions loudly accused her of doing her job poorly and belittled her when she defended herself and explained her decisions.

“I was just disgusted about how an elected official belittled me,” she said. “As an elected official, [Ulrich] should not be talking to people like that.”

Ulrich called the meeting “a circus,” and responded it was being run unfairly and they were attempting to maintain order. He noted that a court case has been filed to attempt to wrest leadership from Ragusa.

“Just because you declare yourself the winner and tell people to shut up doesn’t mean you’re the chair,” Ulrich said.

An email written by Kathy Huang, who served as parliamentarian for the meeting, detailed a number of racist remarks made by the group, both towards her and other Asian-Americans present. The email obtained by the Queens Tribune was sent to a party member who was not present at the meeting.

When Huang explained who she was and her role at the meeting, a member of Ulrich’s group was said to have asked, “Is she even American? Where does she practice law, in China?”

Huang’s email also stated that when a speaker had trouble pronouncing an Asian district leader’s name, Nunziato stated, “Ching Chong Won, what’s the difference, they all sound the same.”

Nunziato also reportedly referred to Eben Brofman, John Catsimatidis’ Mayoral campaign manager, derogatorily, saying “there’s that fat pig’s Jew coming to do his dirty work,” the email also detailed.

Another source at the meeting, who wished to remain nameless, said Ulrich berated an older woman at the meeting after Ulrich challenged a proxy vote the woman had cast, accusing the woman of committing a fraud and that her proxy vote should be invalid.

Robert Hornak, the party’s executive director, said the comments were upsetting. “Those kinds of sentiments are completely unacceptable in the political sphere, as they are in any other aspect of life,” he said.

Ulrich denied the allegations. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “It’s such an outrageous claim to make.”

Nunziato added that no one in their camp made racist remarks at the meeting. “I would never say or do anything like that to personally offend someone,” he said. “I just want to get real people to come out and run, so there’s real choice on the ballot.”

Reach Steven J. Ferrari at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 122, email sferrari@queenstribune.com or tweet @stevenferrari.