The Queens political world has a new Comeback Kid following 24-year-old Republican candidate Eric Ulrich’s smashing victory in Tuesday’s special election, which puts the GOP back on the political map again.
Ulrich, in winning the 32nd Council District election by more than 1,000 votes over second-place finisher Lew Simon, a Democratic leader in the Rockaways, brought the Ozone Park-Howard Beach seat back to the Republicans. Ulrich, the GOP District Leader in that area, becomes the youngest person to become a councilmember and the only Republican in the Queens delegation. According to unofficial and incomplete returns, Ulrich garnered 3,426 votes.
Ulrich replaces Joseph Addabbo Jr., who vacated the seat last November after winning the state senate post previously held by Serphin Maltese.
In other election activity in Queens on Tuesday, Julissa Ferreras won the 21st Council District post previously held by Hiram Monserrate, who had vacated the seat by also winning a state senate seat in November.
Ferreras, a 32-year-old Democrat, easily defeated three opponents and became the first Hispanic woman to hold a council post in the borough. The district covers the Jackson Heights-Corona-Elmhurst-East Elmhurst areas adjacent to LaGuardia Airport.
Ulrich’s victory follows closely upon state Senator Frank Padavan’s re-election in Northeast Queens, retaining him as the only Republican from the borough in the upper house of the state legislature. Besides being the Republican Party District Leader in Ozone Park, Ulrich also heads the Our Neighbor Civic Association of Ozone Park. He ran with the strong backing of the Republican Party county organization chaired by Philip Ragusa.
In a victory statement issued after the votes were in, Ulrich thanked Ragusa for the party’s support and recalled naysayers’ remarks: “They said a Republican can never win. He is just a kid. Well, we proved them wrong.”
Ragusa responded, “[Eric] reaped the fruits of his hard work organizing, party building and serving his community. The voters of this district clearly responded to his energetic and vigorous campaign.” He added, “I’ve said since November that rebuilding the Queens GOP will come in stages. The first block was Senator Padavan’s win. We had hoped Eric would be the second, and now he is. We are in a strong position to make further gains in the city council elections this November.”
Queens GOP Executive Vice Chairman Vince Tabone noted: “[Eric] knows everybody in his district. [He] was an outstanding candidate and will make a terrific city councilman. The county organization’s top priority was Eric’s election, as evidenced by the thousands of phone calls and e-mails we sent out, independent of Eric’s campaign, as well as the volunteers we directed to his race.”
Tabone also noted that Ulrich’s victory was not affected by the presence of a second Republican on the ballot, Mike Ricatto. Ricatto got 652 votes. Another Rockaway Democratic District Leader, Geraldine Chapey, received 891 votes.
Former Councilmember Tom Ognibene was credited with guiding Ulrich’s well-run campaign. Tribute was also paid to fellow Republican District Leaders Jane Deacy, William Johnert, Donna Caltabiano, Joe Kasper and Janice Bar; club leader Bernie Solow; Reagan Club President Rosemary Frissolone; Conservative Party Chairman Tom Long, and prominent Republican activists Tom Lynch and Pete Stubben.
The 32nd Council District, which besides Ozone Park and Howard Beach includes Broad Channel, the Rockaways and parts of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, was represented by Councilmember Alfonso Stabile before he was succeeded by Addabbo in 2002. Ulrich will serve out Addabbo’s term, which expires at the end of this year.
In the 21st Council District contest, which was also on the ballot on Tuesday, Julissa Ferreras defeated Francisco Moya and George Dixon, both Democratic District leaders, and Jose Eduardo Giraldo. The Queens Democratic organization did not endorse a candidate in the 21st District race because Moya and Dixon, both district leaders, were in the field.
Ferreras, who was endorsed by the Working Families Party, tallied more than 7,000 votes, almost 44 percent of the total, for a very impressive victory. “Without the Working Families Party, I never would have been able to get out my message of uniting our communities. This campaign was about fighting for all of us, and I was proud to have the WFP with me every step of the way,” she said in a post-election statement.
A jubilant Jose Schiffino, a member of the Queens chapter of the Working Families Party, responded: “Julissa Ferreras will be a force for New York’s working families in the city council.”
Working Families Party staff ran the Ferreras effort, and organizer Ted Fertik served as campaign manager. In addition to the WFP’s involvement, Ferreras was endorsed by several municipal labor unions, members of which were also active in her campaign.
Besides working for several years as Monserrate’s chief of staff, Ferreras was also active as an advocate for students and parents at P.S. 19 in Corona, one of the city’s most overcrowded schools. In her job as a top member of Monserrate’s staff, she helped to serve the entire district in constituent matters. She also aided in one of Monserrate’s greatest victories, helping to shape the final development plan for Willets Point. Monserrate had advocated for more jobs for local residents as well as more affordable housing and community benefits than developers first intended to include as part of the plan.
Ferreras will complete Monserrate’s council term, which expires at the end of the year.