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Republican Activists Hold Downstate Summit

Local leaders will gather to offer vision for rebuilding the collapsing state party with eye on future elections and viability of the NY Republican Party

On Tuesday, January 11, 2005 a group of grassroots republican leaders
from across New York City and surrounding areas will gather to discuss the future of the New York Republican Party. After the debacle of the Mills campaign - with the GOP's hand-picked nominee giving Sen. Charles Schumer the largest margin of victory in a Senate race in NY History - the Democrats gaining control of many former Republican strongholds like Nassau and Westchester counties, and the state GOP's disconnect with local activists, many leaders have come to the same conclusion - that a major shake-up is needed to the get the party back on track.

The Rockaway Republicans has organized and agreed to host, in cooperation with the Brooklyn Young Republican Club, the New York Young Republican Club, the Regular Republican Club of Woodside and the New York chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a downstate grassroots summit aimed at reversing this alarming trend. Other participating groups include the newly formed conservative issues-oriented PAC, Save New York, chaired by former Republican contender for the U.S. Senate nomination, Michael Benjamin of Brooklyn. To date participants have indicating they will be coming from the New York City metropolitan area and from as far away as upstate New York.

"Local Republican organizations can't afford to sit by any longer and watch as our party continues to lose ground in election after election in this state, even while Republicans are demonstrating their ability to connect with the electorate across the rest of the nation," said Tom Lynch, president of the recently formed Rockaway Republicans. "We can't just roll over and play dead anymore as the recent U.S. Senate race clearly demonstrated. Schumer owes his historic win less to his own strengths than to the near total surrender of the state GOP. If we keep this up, there won't be much of a party left and New York State elections will be no different from the kind of votes held in the old Soviet Union."

Lynch notes that his own group has been troubled, since its formation in March 2004, by a lack of feedback and direction from the party's official leadership. "We have to wake them up," says Lynch, "and the way to do it is by reviving political interest and activism at the local level in each of our communities." Lynch's group first proposed a summit of local level party leaders and activists in November and offered to host the event. Since then a number of other Republican groups have signed on to co-host the gathering.

The event will feature a series of speakers, that have been deeply involved in grassroots republican politics, to discuss the problems and opportunities now facing the New York GOP. Featured speakers include Michael Benjamin who will be discussing opportunities for statewide revitalization, Robert Hornak of the New York Young Republican Club and the Urban Republican Coalition discussing strategies and techniques available to party activists in upcoming elections, Ed Coyne, First Vice-Chair of the Queens County Republican Party and local district leader, who will be discussing the increasing fragmentation and isolation that afflicts local clubs in his borough and beyond. Other speakers expected are John Fleming, who ran for Guy Vellela's recently vacated Senate seat, and Steven Shaw, candidate for the Republican nomination for Mayor in 2005.

Many party leaders and elected officials have been invited to participate. Currently, Councilman Dennis Gallagher and former Council Minority Leader Tom Ognibene have both indicated that they will attend.

According to Patrick Hurley, President of the Regular Republican Club of Woodside, "the number one problem preventing Republican growth in our state stems from the ever increasing isolation and inwardness that's come to characterize our party's political activities in New York. Our leadership's afraid to risk what little they still have in the way of elective offices by challenging the status quo. They've accepted a virtual non-compete clause with their Democratic rivals. The result is that we run fewer and fewer candidates against the Democrats, making our political demise almost a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Luke Vander Linden, President of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club, sees light at the end of the tunnel. "The numbers don't lie," he said. "There are many areas in the city where the President got 50, 60 - as much as 70% of the vote. That wasn't a fluke. In those same areas, Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, as well as Governor Pataki, received that much and more. These results suggest a tremendous opportunity for the Republican Party in New York."

Vander Linden pointed out that local candidates for City Council, Assembly and State Senate have been faring far worse. "It's rare for them to break 20%," he pointed out. "But sadly, the real problem is that much of the time there aren't any local Republican candidates at all. We can't expect to be a viable party if we don't focus on building at the local and grassroots level." Vander Linden notes that he's hopeful the upcoming summit will start the needed rebuilding process. "This is an opportunity to wake the Republican Party up and get it moving again." he says.

After the scheduled speakers an open discussion will be held at which all participants will be invited to air their concerns and offer solutions in a broad ranging, no holds-barred discussion. "One of the most important things that needs to be accomplished, said Paul Rodriquez, President of the New York Young Republican Club, "is putting the different people and groups in our party together so they can start talking to one another and know who their counterparts are in other areas of the city and state. Besides all the ideas for turning things around that we hope to generate, we also want to help our different factions get to know one another again, so they can learn to join forces and support one another in upcoming election cycles."


By Public Transportation

Take A Train (Mott Ave-JFK Airport) to Broad Channel. Take Shuttle (S) to last stop Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street. Take Q-35 (Green Bus on corner of B116 and Newport Ave) 10 blocks to Beach 126th Street, and walk two blocks north from Newport Ave to Beach Channel Drive.


Take #2 or #5 to last stop Flatbush Ave/Brooklyn College. Upstairs, take Q-35 (Green Bus) to Beach 126 Street, and walk two blocks north from Newport Ave to Beach Channel Drive.

By Car

Directions to the Belle harbor Yacht Club
Beach Channel Drive Between 127th & 126th Street
Entrance to parking lot on 126th Street

From Queens: (Heading South) Woodhaven Blvd. Turns into Cross Bay Blvd. Stay to Right after toll bridge, exit sign, Reis Park \ Breezy Point, your on Beach Channel Drive make a left on 126th Street one block make left, one block, make left on 126th Street last big house on left, parking lot.

From Brooklyn: (Heading South) Flatbush Ave. after toll bridge bear left on to Beach Channel Drive make a right on 127th one block make left, one block, make left on 126th Street last big house on left, parking lot.

From Manhattan: Brooklyn Battery Tunnel or Brooklyn Bridge to Belt Parkway (East) to exit 11S Flatbush Ave. (south) after toll bridge bear left on to Beach Channel Drive make a right on 127th one block make left, one block, make left on 126th Street last big house on left, parking lot.

Posted by editor on Monday, Jan. 3
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