By M. Thomas Nast
I am a politico and longtime Republican. I am using a pseudonym. The publisher knows who I am.
I learned my craft – several decades ago – the art of getting people elected – from the greatest generation of political operators from New York State and across the country.
Recently, I was asked how these old-timers would have dealt with the “the Swamp” — the behemoth and entrenched political and administrative establishment.
The Swamp really is a revolving door between politics, government, and the private sector, disregarding the rank-and-file Republican voters.
Party leaders make a deal on cross-endorsement
I have a simple answer. The failure is my party.
The party of Lincoln, TR, Ike, Reagan, and now Trump is suffering from “Electile Dysfunction.” And unless we act quickly, the condition may become incurable.
How do I reach this prognosis? The symptoms:
- Lack of viable messaging
- Poor candidate selection
- Failure to challenge questionable ballot mail-ins and harvesting practices
- Party leadership putting their personal advancement and agenda before the good of the party
Number 4 is the biggest issue by far.
From the local levels to the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party is a diseased political animal.
I can illustrate the disease by what happens in my home county, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York.
Staten Island is the only “Red” County of the Five Boroughs of New York City. Our voter demographics resemble suburban enclaves in the northern and western parts of New York and swing counties in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona, rather than the rest of “deep blue” New York City or State.
Notice a pattern.
Red counties, in blue states. A Republican county and in a very Democrat state. Or Democrat control and bent GOP leadership.
Currently, only four of the eleven Staten Island elected officials are members of the Democrat Party. In county-wide races, Republicans have gotten at least 60% of the vote for the last decade, with few exceptions.
As a student of politics, I look at the numbers.
The 2020 census says the population is just under 500,000. In the 2022 Presidential Election, there were 217,899 votes cast. Donald Trump won 123,320 votes (57%) to Joe Biden’s 90,997 (42%), a 15-point margin.
Staten Island is Red.
The Borough President is a county-wide seat. In 2021, Trump-endorsed Republican Borough President Vito Fossella beat Democrat Mark Murphy, the son of a former US Congressman, by 27,000 votes.
The District Attorney is a county-wide seat. In 2019, the Staten Island Republican Party Leadership let Democrat District Attorney Michael McMahon (well known to Frank Report readers) run UNCONTESTED!
In 2022, Republican Lee Zeldin beat Incumbent Democrat Governor Hocul in Staten Island by 43,000 votes in a statewide contest. Hochul won statewide.
In another statewide contest, unknown Republican Paul Rodriguez topped incumbent Democrat Comptroller Tom DiNapoli by 36,000 votes. DiNapoli won statewide.
Unknown Republican Michael Henry won over incumbent Democrat Attorney General Letitia James by 40,000 votes.
James won statewide.
Unknown State Senate Candidate Joe Tirone came within 700 votes of flipping a State Senate seat a Democrat held for 18 years.
And unknown Republican, Sam Pirozollo, flipped a State Assembly Seat a Democrat had held for 18 years.
The numbers don’t lie.
There was a “Red Wave” in Staten Island’s 2022 elections. Even in deep-blue New York State, which hasn’t carried a Republican President since Ronald Reagan in 1984 and hasn’t had a state-wide Republican hold office since George Pataki left the governor’s mansion in 2006.
Three county-wide NYS Supreme Court judgeships were on the line in 2022. The Staten Island Republican Party leadership chose not to run a Republican (many wanted to run) against the Democrats and endorsed Democrats Judith McMahon (the wife of District Attorney Michael McMahon) and Ann Thompson.
This “deal” was in exchange for the Democrats endorsing one Republican judicial seat. Former Republican Party Chairman Brendan Lantry was cross-endorsed and elevated to the bench.
When a judicial candidate is cross-endorsed, he or she appears on both the Republican and Democrat lines – so there is no contest. Party bosses, not the voters, decide who the judges will be.
In all three races – with judges not facing an opponent – the two Democrats and one Republican all got more than 70% of their vote totals on the Republican line.
This means that if the Republicans had put a candidate against the two Democrats, the Republicans would have had a good chance at winning all three.
Instead, there were no races, and the only Republican cross-endorsed was the party boss.
Fast forward to this year.
Once again, the Staten Island GOP leadership in a heavily Republican county – dictated that no Republican candidate was to run against Democrat Michael McMahon. He will run unopposed as Richmond County District Attorney.
Democrat City Councilmember Kamillah Hanks will also run unopposed in the Staten Island portion of the NYS Senate district, which came within 700 votes of flipping Republican in the last election.
For years, Republican NYC Councilman and later two-term Republican Borough President James Oddo was a staunch conservative. That was until his wife, Kim Petersen, wanted to “get made” as a judge. In 2016, she was appointed to the Queens County Criminal Court bench by former NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, buying Hizzoner four years of Oddo being his loyal (and maybe only) lap-dog in the Red Borough.
In 2020, he supported Democrat NYS Senator Diane Savino and Democrat NYS Assemblyman Michael Cusick. He also snubbed Republican Congressional Candidate and now US Representative Nicole Malliotakis, supporting her Democrat opponent Max Rose.
In 2021, Oddo refused to endorse Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa. Then in January, after Democrat Eric Adams beat Sliwa, he appointed Oddo to his “dream job” as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Operations – a nice pay hike for the Republican.
In 2019, the Richmond County Republican Party let Democrat District Attorney Michael McMahon run UNCONTESTED.
Then Republican Party Chairman, Robert Helbock, became a Civil Court Judge.
The next Republican County Chairman, Ronald Castorina, Jr., supported Democrats, helped McMahon, and became a New York State Supreme Court Justice.
Frank Report readers will find the Castorina name familiar because of recent perjury allegations against him.
In 2022, Republican Joe Tirone came within 700 votes of flipping the NY State Senate Seat held by a Democrat for 18 years.
Oddly, the NYS Republican Senate Campaign Committee didn’t help his campaign with any money or manpower.
Inside sources told me Staten Island Assemblyman and current Richmond County Republican Party Chairman Michael Tannousis and sitting State Senator Andrew Lanza were blocking Tirone’s support.
Tirone came within 700 votes of winning. Had he had support, he might have won.
In 2022, Sam Pirozzolo also had the same lack of GOP establishment help. Defying the odds, he flipped a NY State Assembly seat a Democrat held for two decades.
And don’t forget the 2022 “deal of the century,” “two for one” judge swap.
Give away two seats in a deal when you can get all three at the polls.
And the Staten Island GOP leadership isn’t trying to hide the blatant quid pro quo.
Three straight Richmond County Republican Party Chairman give Democrats FREE RIDES, and now all three are judges.
Someone should investigate how former Republican County Chairmen, all lawyers – Brendan Lantry, Robert Helbock, and Ronald Castorina – became judges.
It will be interesting also to observe if Richmond County Republican Party Chairman, who is also a lawyer, Michael Tannousis, will soon become a judge.
If it is unclear, a Republican in the sole Republican County in greater New York City, who supports Democrats in a city and state controlled by Democrats, can tap into favors with the party where it counts. He can get patronage, jobs, and legal work [these men are lawyers] and become a judge.
These opportunities would otherwise be unavailable if they put their party above their personal ambitions.
Said another way, by selling out Republicans, they can curry favor with Democrats who hold the big city and state power.
Let’s be blunt. Current GOP Leadership has been involved in politics for decades. On Staten Island, several of them are elected State Legislators and attorneys.
It’s not improbable that a greedy lawyer becomes a spineless political hack in a state where the Democrat Party and the Trial Lawyers’ lobby control the court system and determine who gets elevated to the bench.
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.