2:15 pm Sep. 26, 2011
Councilman Peter Koo of Queens has met privately with Democratic Party leaders in Queens to consider switching parties. According to a source, the freshman lawmaker has felt "dissatisfied" and "marginalized" by Republican leadership on the state and county level.
Koo's resentment of state and Queens County Republican leadership stems from their meager support of his 2009 campaign, and from the fact the fact that the party has made little effort to reach out to him since then, the source said.
Koo, who represents Flushing, met with Representative Joseph Crowley, the Queens County Democratic leader, and county party officials Michel Reich and Frank Bolz, in late August, according to two sources. The meeting took place after Koo endorsed the Democratic congressional candidate, David Weprin, in the special election in New York's Ninth Congressional District, which was won by Republican Bob Turner.
A spokesman for the Queens County Republican Organization said Koo will not defect.
"We believe we've built a very strong relationship with Peter Koo and his office and worked very well with him," said Queens G.O.P. spokesman Robert Hornak. "We feel very confident that that relationship will continue."
I spoke to one of Koo's Republican Council colleagues, Eric Ulrich, who confirmed he's heard Koo is seriously considering making the switch.
A spokesman for Koo said the councilman had no current plans to switch his affiliation.
"He is not leaving the Republican Party," said the spokesman, James McClelland.
But in a sign of Koo's less-than-warm relationship with the organization, he will be staying neutral when the county chairman, Phil Ragusa, seeks re-election Wednesday night. Ragusa is fending off a challenge from former councilman Thomas Ognibene, whose supporters are boycotting Ragusa's meeting at the Reception House Wednesday night, and holding a meeting of their own at Villa Russo in Richmond Hill. The counter-meeting will be led by Bart Haggerty, a longtime opponent of Ragusa and the brother of John Haggerty, who is currently on trial on allegations that he stole $1 million from Michael Bloomberg by falsely promising to use the money for ballot-security operations.
"Any meeting Bart Haggerty calls will be an illegal meeting" and is meant "to distract and confuse people," said Hornak. "We feel certain Phil Ragusa will be re-elected."
The mere talk of a Koo defection on the eve of the county vote will be ammunition for Ragusa's critics, like Ognibene, who say the organization is not unified and has done little to capture the growing opportunity Republicans currently have in Queens.
Koo is currently one of five Republicans on the 51-member Council.