Is there a Republican Primary? April 14-No, April 26-No, May 13-Yes, May 18-Yes, June 11-Some, June 17?
It is common knowledge that if you want to run for an office in the City of New York, be it as a Democrat, Conservative, Working Families or Republican, it is critically important to get the blessing of your official party county committee on the ballot. Otherwise, proceed with caution.
Let me share our Queens County Republican story.
On September 27, 2017, Bob Turner, chairman of the Queens County Republican Committee, was ousted by Joann Ariola, who became the chairwoman. Instead of being a voice for Republican values, unity and growing party enrollment, under Chairwoman Ariola’s leadership, club was purposefully shuttered and candidates not seeking her backing were knocked off the ballot. Under her tenure, the official Queens County GOP website and Facebook page ceased to address her constituent’s issues while registered Republican voter enrollment in Queens fell from 128,178 in 2017 to 126,679 in 2020. Democrats had a net increase of 22,740 over the same period of time.
In 2018, Queens County Republican Patriots was established by Joseph Concannon to challenge Chairwoman Ariola’s leadership. The following year, these Patriots submitted 17 State Committee leaders and 556 Republican County Committee members to run against Ariola’s 34 State Committee leaders and 849 County Committee members. After Board of Elections rulings on objections, then a court challenge by County Committee’s attorney, John Ciampoli, Republican Patriots had only 2 State Committee leaders eligible for the primary, Howard Neiman and Evangeline Balaskas, both of the 25th Assembly District.
After the June 25, 2019 primary, Republican Patriots ended up with no State Committee leaders and 28.63% of the County Committee members. Ariola was re-elected chairwoman on October 6, 2019.
Fast forward to late February 2021, Republican Queens County Committee postponed County Committee member election the day before petitioning was to start. Given the circumstances, Republican Patriots were still able to submit 31 candidates for public office and party position on March 25.
Beware of the opposition. March 2021.
Resistance to our petitioning in March turned suddenly hostile. Midway through the 3-week petitioning period, Ariola forced 3 City Council candidates to disavow having their name on our petition. Supporting them would constitute fraud, she said. Identical letter for a fourth candidate followed one week later. Some of those candidates had appeared before our club seeking endorsement, and none had a primary challenger. Also, Lauren Rivera, our female State Committee leader for the 27th AD, appeared on Ariola’s petition for the same position, misled us believing she was on our side.
Ariola’s people began a campaign to squash our petitioning, intimidating some of us who were collecting signatures, especially those who had worked previously as poll workers. Sometimes, the pitch was soft with a “guarantee” to work as poll worker or with a request to mail in petitions that may not have been witnessed which could constitute as fraud.
Beware of the Board of Elections. April 14.
Once our petitions were submitted, we naively thought the Board would be fair. (Having personally been cycled through the process for 20 years, I can attest that the Board’s process in 2021 was the worst of any year in delivering fairness.)
John Haggerty, representing Ariola, did not object to a single signature as invalid, and was able to knock off the entire slate. First, he knocked off 13 candidates who did not have the minimum required number of signatures. In his Specifications against Fernando Acosta, State Committee male for the 36th AD, the volume number was incorrectly listed. That mistake was sufficient to restore Mr. Acosta back to the ballot. To head off that error, Queens Republican Commissioner, Michael Michel, ordered a prima facie ruling against all 13 candidates knocking those candidates out for the second time not giving anyone a chance to survive the challenge.
Then, for the remaining 18 candidates that had more than the minimum number of signatures, Haggerty had the Board rule the entire 37 volumes of petition was null and void because Election Numbers (ED) numbers printed on the petition (as listed in the Board’s publication) “could confuse the singers (sic)”. “Could” is now an acceptable standard for the Board to knock off candidates! The 10 Commissioners unanimously adopted the Counsel’s Report. The other 13 candidates already disqualified were also on the same allegedly confusing petition, but were not made a party to the Counsel’s Report.
In return, Republican Patriots did challenge 10 of Ariola’s candidates. Board of Elections’ Clerk’s Reports showed all of our challenges were unsuccessful. To meet the 3 pm deadline to challenge the reports, we arrived 9:15 am at Queens Board office to review, but they delayed us until 2 pm. “It’s under examination” was cited as another reason by Brian Rose, Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief Clerk, Bart Haggerty. Upon review, many of those reports were heavily readacted and names noted as Democrat were counted as valid! On April 14th, at the end of the hearings, the Queens Board even emailed us an Exception Report saying DEM enrollment (on a Republican petition) is not required, while our challenge reports emailed in a timely manner on the 12th had somehow were missing and not available before the Commissioners. To make the matter worse, as the representative of all 31 candidates, I was not recognized as present to argue during prima facie and exception report parts of the hearing.
It was not just those at the Board Office in Queens playing the delay card. Board HQ at 32 Broadway on numerous occasions delayed our requests for legal documents, objection ledgers, petitions filed, copies of general objections, and proof of service. Even the Notice of Determination available on April 14th took 2 weeks to deliver after repeated requests. One prima facie letter dated April 6th, postmarked April 8th, went through Puerto Rico on April 9th, and was not received by the proper contact person until May 11th.
Even the printed Hearings Calendar was against us as the Commissioners focused on candidates in an off ballot/on ballot order, confusing several representatives including John Haggerty.
Expect defeat even if the Board itself makes mistakes. Ruben Cruz, candidate for City Council, did his own petition and was his own contact person, yet prima facie letter sent to the wrong contact person and address was ruled OK. He was not even properly served!
Beware of the Supreme Court Judge. April 26.
John Ciampoli, the County Committee’s attorney, filed a Petition to Invalidate our petitions on April 8th as a preemptive strike should the Commissioners ruled in our favor. We lost, and filed a Petition to Validate on April 16th. When we were assigned judges Hon. Robert Caloras and Hon. Timothy Dufficy, respectively, our attorney warned us that judge may have a bias due to loyalty to the County Committee members who put them on the bench.
Faith at the Appellate Court! May 13.
Argument was made before the Appellate Court, 2nd Department, on May 12th, and the Court in a 4-0 decision reversed the lower court and the Board’s ruling, and 18 candidates were restored to the ballot. Watch the hearing here.
Court of Appeals in Albany. May 18.
On May 14th, the same day the appellate decision was handed down, John Ciampoli has appealed the case to the highest court in the State, Court of Appeals in Albany. The judges refused to hear his and all other election law cases.
Beware of the Supreme Court Judge, Part 2. June 11.
Joann Ariola said to revive her legal challenge. On June 4, John Ciampoli had the April 8th case before Judge Robert Caloras of Queens Supreme Court restored. After 2 days of hearings, Hon. Robert Caloras ordered that 11 of the 18 candidates are off the ballot due to “permeating fraud” and “defective” cover sheets.
“One Nation Under God”? Not under Ariola. June 15.
Independent Nominating Petitioning ended the week of May 25. Queens County GOP submitted 13 “Save Our City” candidates; Republican Patriots, 8 candidates filed under the name, “One Nation Under God”. Joann Ariola and John Haggerty filed objection against ALL of our candidates. We believe in voter choice so we did not challenge any of their candidates. At the Commissioners Hearing on June 15, all 8 were ruled off the ballot with John Ciampoli representing Ariola’s objectors.
Appellate Court, Part 2. June 17.
It’s humiliating and demoralizing to be removed twice. Names of the 11 candidates will still appear on the paper/machine ballot. Worse, the Supreme Court decision ordered the Board of Elections not to count or tally any votes cast for those candidates! We want them all counted! We lost.