Is the GOP a sickly animal?
Is the GOP a sickly animal?
NY Opinion The Swamp

Staten Island GOP’s “Electile Dysfunction”

Staten Island Republicans should focus on their own party's issues instead of trading judgeships for favors from Democrats. The Republican Party needs to confront the Swamp and its "Electile Dysfunction" before it's too late.
Modern Thomas Nast
Modern Thomas Nast

By M. Thomas Nast

Editor’s Note: The original piece, “Staten Island Republican Party Bosses Trade Judgeships for Democrat Favors,” was previously published in the Frank Report.

I’m a GOP man, been in the game for years. But I’m not using my real name. The publisher, though, knows me.

I learned my trade from the finest political operators of the greatest generation, from New York to everywhere else.

Someone asked me how these old-timers would tackle the “the Swamp” – that bloated and entrenched establishment of politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen.

And let me tell you, that Swamp is just a turnstile for those folks, letting them hop between politics, government, and the private sector, all while ignoring the regular Republican voters.

Party leaders make a deal on cross-endorsement

It’s a straightforward matter, really. The fault lies with my own party.

The party that once stood with Lincoln, TR, Ike, Reagan, and now Trump is grappling with a case of “Electile Dysfunction.” And if we don’t move fast, this affliction might just become irreversible.

Lifelong Republican Guest Writer Modern Thomas Nast wonders whether The Swamp has swallowed the GOP whole.

The diagnosis is plain to see, if you look at the symptoms:

  1. A lack of clear messaging
  2. Poor choice of candidates
  3. Failure to confront dubious mail-in ballots and harvesting practices
  4. Personal gain and personal agendas take precedence over the good of the party

But it’s number 4 that’s the real doozy.

From the bottom up, the Republican Party is plagued with illness. And I don’t have to look far to find an example of it. In my home county of Richmond, New York (that’s Staten Island, for those keeping score), the sickness is on full display.

Staten Island is the only red county in the five boroughs of New York City. It’s a bit of a rebel, you might say. Our voters are more like those in the suburbs of upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona than they are like the rest of the Big Apple.

You can see a pattern, can’t you? Red counties, in blue states. Republican bastions surrounded by Democratic strongholds. Or worse yet, blue counties with corrupt GOP leaders.

Here’s the thing: only four out of eleven elected officials in Staten Island are Democrats. And in county-wide races, Republicans have won at least 60% of the vote for the last ten years.

As a student of politics, I crunch the numbers. The census says there are just under 500,000 people in Staten Island. But in the 2022 Presidential Election, only 217,899 people cast their ballots. Donald Trump won with 123,320 votes (that’s 57% of the vote), while Joe Biden got 90,997 (42%), a 15-point difference.

So, you see, Staten Island is red. And yet, the Republican Party is still sick.

2020 Presidential Election - Staten Island Vote Totals
2020 Presidential Election – Staten Island Vote Totals

The 2019 District Attorney race saw the Staten Island Republican Party allow Democrat Michael McMahon to run uncontested, a decision that proved beneficial for him.

In the elections of 2021, the Republicans made their mark in Staten Island, a county in the blue state of New York. Trump-endorsed Republican Vito Fossella beat Democrat Mark Murphy by a margin of 27,000 votes in the race for Borough President.

Last year’s 2022 elections saw Republican Lee Zeldin beat incumbent Democrat Governor Hochul by 43,000 votes in Staten Island, although Hochul won statewide. Additionally, unknown Republicans Paul Rodriguez and Michael Henry topped incumbent Democrats Tom DiNapoli and Letitia James by 36,000 and 40,000 votes, respectively, in statewide contests, though both Democrats won statewide.

Down-ballot in the NYS senate race, little-known Republican Joe Tirone came within 700 votes of flipping a seat held by a Democrat for 18 years, and unknown Republican Sam Pirozollo flipped a State Assembly Seat held by a Democrat for the same period.

These results led to a “Red Wave” in Staten Island, a significant achievement in a state that has not carried a Republican President since Ronald Reagan in 1984 and has not had a statewide Republican hold office since George Pataki left the governor’s mansion in 2006.

In the judicial races, the Staten Island Republican Party leadership endorsed Democrats Judith McMahon and Ann Thompson for the three county-wide NYS Supreme Court judgeships, declining to field their own candidates. This resulted in the cross-endorsement of former Republican Party Chairman Brendan Lantry, who was elevated to the bench. As a result, with no contested races, all three candidates received more than 70% of their vote totals on the Republican line.

Had Republicans fielded candidates against the Democrats, they would have had a good chance of winning all three. However, the party bosses decided to cross-endorse only Lantry, leaving the other two races uncontested.

In 2023, the Staten Island GOP leadership dictated that no Republican candidate was to run against Democrat Michael McMahon, who will run unopposed as Richmond County District Attorney. Similarly, Democrat City Councilmember Kamillah Hanks will run unopposed in the Staten Island portion of the NYS Senate district, which narrowly missed flipping Republican in the previous election.

Staten Island GOP Rally
A Staten Island Republican Party Rally?

Republican NYC Councilman and Borough President James Oddo had been a die-hard conservative for years. That was until his wife Kim Petersen yearned to be appointed as a judge. In 2016, former NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio granted her wish, and Oddo became his loyal lap-dog in the Red Borough for four years.

Come 2020, Oddo supported Democrats Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Michael Cusick, while snubbing Republican congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis and backing her Democrat opponent Max Rose.

Oddo’s political stance remained fluid in 2021 as he refused to back Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa. In January, after Democrat Eric Adams defeated Sliwa, he handed Oddo his “dream job” as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Operations, providing the Republican with a nice pay bump.

Oddo Savino Adams
“Republicrat” James Oddo [r] and Democrat Diane Savino [c], former  NY State Senator and Special Assistant to NYC Mayor Eric Adams [r], with their new employer.

In 2019, the Richmond County Republicans gave Democrat Michael McMahon a free pass to become District Attorney.

Robert Helbock, the Republican Party Chairman, became a judge.

Then Ronald Castorina, Jr., another Republican County Chairman, threw his support behind the Democrats, helped McMahon, and became a State Supreme Court Justice. Readers will recognize the Castorina name from recent perjury allegations.

In 2022, Republican Joe Tirone nearly won the NY State Senate Seat, which a Democrat had held for 18 years. Surprisingly, the NYS Republican Senate Campaign Committee offered no financial or manpower assistance to Tirone’s campaign.

According to insider sources, Staten Island Assemblyman and current Richmond County Republican Party Chairman Michael Tannousis and sitting State Senator Andrew Lanza prevented Tirone from receiving support. If Tirone had received the support he needed, he might have won the election.

Republican Sam Pirozzolo, a victim of arson because of his support for Donald Trump, is labeled as a "wild card" by the GOP Establishment.

Republican Sam Pirozzolo, a victim of arson due to his support for Donald Trump, is seen as a “wild card” by the GOP Establishment. Despite their lack of support, Pirozzolo managed to flip a NY State Assembly seat held by a Democrat for two decades in 2022.

The 2022 “deal of the century” involved giving away two seats in exchange for getting all three at the polls, but the Staten Island GOP leadership didn’t bother trying to conceal the blatant quid pro quo.

For three consecutive terms, Richmond County Republican Party Chairman allowed Democrats to run uncontested, resulting in all three chairmen, who were lawyers – Brendan Lantry, Robert Helbock, and Ronald Castorina – becoming judges.

It remains to be seen whether the current Republican County Chairman and lawyer, Michael Tannousis, will follow suit and become a judge. By supporting Democrats in a city and state controlled by them, Republicans in the sole Republican County in greater New York City can reap benefits such as patronage, jobs, and legal work. These opportunities would be unavailable if they prioritized their party over their personal ambitions.

In other words, by selling out Republicans, they can gain favor with Democrats who hold the big city and state power.

Staten Island GOP Headquarters?
Staten Island GOP Headquarters?

The GOP leaders in Staten Island are old-timers in politics, many of them being State Legislators and lawyers. It’s not unlikely that an avaricious lawyer turns into a gutless political pawn in a state where the Democrats and the Trial Lawyers’ Association run the court system and decide who gets promoted to a judgeship.

A GOP Headquarters near you?
A GOP Headquarters near you?

This is The Swamp, and it stinks.

And this cesspool isn’t limited to New York.

Republicans across this country must boot our self-serving leadership and start choosing leaders who put the people ahead of personal ambitions. And it should start with Staten Island. I call upon the Richmond County Republican Party Leadership to resign immediately.