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What Were They Thinking? – Part 1: The Allegretti Question

December 14, 2010

He was a young, wealthy and promising prospect for a party establishment desperate to be relevant.

Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig “The Duke” Eaton once referred to him as “our own horse in this race,” referring to the 13th Congressional election that just played out last month.

But amid rumors of friendly relations with the incumbent Democratic congressman, and for a party leader that so boldly promised supporting the fledgling politico Michael Allegretti, little to nothing visible was ever done for him in the run-up to the GOP primary.

It is with this story that I begin my multi-part series on the 2010 Brooklyn GOP: “What Were They Thinking?”

You will recall that I indicated about a month ago that I would be exploring some of the more interesting questions regarding the rationales of those at the center of the GOP disaster in Brooklyn that was this year’s election. As many of you know, over the course of the past 12 months, the party has experienced vicious in fighting and has been stewing in its own bile.

All of this culminated in a very curious, tumultuous election season that saw the Brooklyn GOP continue a string of failures under Chairman Eaton while simultaneously taking credit for victories that they themelves never earned and, indeed, spent months opposing.

Perhaps the most visible example of that reality is none other than Michael Allegretti.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was pretty hard on Allegretti from the start of his run. I thought he was a liberal-leaning huckster who was nothing more than a dolled-up lobbyist. I don’t think my criticism was far off, and I am glad that I pushed for Michael Grimm from day one (who is now the new congressman of the 13th Congressional).

From the beginning, Allegretti was a target online for conservatives who mocked his environmental lobbying career and even made allegations regarding his sexual orientation. Taking a higher road, I compared him to Dede Scozzafava, the moderate/liberal Republican candidate from upstate who was the subject of nationwide GOP criticism for her “un-Republican” positions on issues. Meanwhile, the Grimm campaign, with their more muscular machine (and candidate), tore into him for his perceived liberal views.

And then came the biggest gaffe of all: The “We Like Mike” Ad.

Talk about “what were they thinking.” What the heck were the Allegretti people smoking when they came up with that gem of an advertisement? This ad’s false attacks on Grimm and shameless peddling of Allegretti’s Italian-American heritage were, to put it mildly, not well received. That was soon followed up by a poor performance on NY1 in a debate with his primary opponent.

Thereafter, it was clear the Allegretti Express was not only failing to run local; frankly, it had derailed around when the guy in the commercial says, “He’s a Paisan!”

All the while, what stood out most was the deafening silence coming from the Bay Ridge GOP. Even as their Seabiscuit faltered, they just stared on and watched the carnage from afar, their popcorn boxes nestled in between their pinstripe-clad thighs.

Which led me to ask myself: what were they thinking over there in Marty Golden Land?

One GOP insider told us that some in the party were “shocked by how little the GOP establishment was doing to aid Allegretti in the primary.” After all, he had earned the endorsements of both GOP establishments of the two boroughs in which the 13th Congressional lies. Another said, “some people thought Golden was pleased with the relationship he had built up with Congressman McMahon and was walking a tightrope to look pro-Allegretti when, in reality, he wasn’t.”

Hmm… I don’t know…

But, anyway, after the “We Like Mike” backlash, the Allegretti campaign had little to nothing left to pull out of their hats. Recall that Allegretti held a last-ditch photo op with disgraced former Congressman Vito Fosella, whom some believed would have been the best candidate to beat incumbent McMahon all along. That was their “September surprise.”

Meanwhile, what was the party doing in Brooklyn on the ground to aid Allegretti?

One GOP leader told us: “nothing substantial.” Another said,”nowhere near enough.” Besides Eaton, one person noted, only a couple of leaders even gave token donations to the Allegretti campaign.

And given how poorly Allegretti did in so many precincts of Brooklyn (compared to what was expected of the Brooklyn GOP’s “horse”), it was clear the Brooklyn GOP either had done nothing for the young prospect or commanded absolutely no authority whatsoever to push him over the top.

Meanwhile, as a number of Allegretti’s detractors celebrated Grimm’s victory, the Allegretti campaign closed up shop so quickly, you’d think it had never existed. Their website was dismantled with ferocious speed and the candidate disappeared into the white noise around him.

With that sudden disappearance came questions. Had the GOP leadership seen how weak Allegretti was and decided to make arrangements with the Grimm camp before an embarrassing loss was publicized by the press and blogs? Or was the GOP so weak they had nothing to offer Allegretti, not even a handful of foot soldiers?

Both possibilities do not speak well of the position of the Bay Ridge Cabal in all of this. Whether they made deals or not, and for all their post-primary attempts to insert themselves forcibly into every Grimm photo op possible, the victory was perceived to be largely that of Mr. Grimm himself and most especially his political mentor Guy Molinari, the Shah of Staten Island.

No Marty Golden lovefest. No Craig Eaton gloating ceremony. It was all Grimm and Company.

In other words, the Brooklyn GOP didn’t even afford themselves an opportunity to save face. They had lost fair and square, had chosen the losing liberal GOP candidate 10 months before he lost the primary, and had missed a chance to build a strong relationship with the new candidate, who would go on to lose the election in Brooklyn while edging out his impressive congressional victory on the Staten Island side of the district.

One source familiar with the situation claimed that Chairman Eaton “sacrificed” Allegretti in order to concentrate on his much publicized battle with the 49th Assembly District, investing thousands of dollars fundraised at party haunts to cut into the leadership of the district once represented by former Assemblyman Arnaldo Ferraro, who recently ran for chairman himself.

At least the Chairman gave $750 to his “horse,” but remember that that was his own personal wealth. The party gave absolutely nothing to Allegretti. In fact, I cannot once remember them even giving free advertising to him on their own website. And beside tepid mentions on their “secret” hate blogs, Allegretti was never fervently pushed forward, despite being the first guest on the GOP-sponsored blog radio program (aka The Bay Ridge Cabal Echo Chamber).

Nothing.

So given all of this, maybe I don’t have to wonder what the Bay Ridge Cabal was thinking. At the end of the day, whatever they had hoped to achieve, it ended up being largely or entirely a failure.

That is the most telling aspect of all.

***

Coming up in the series: “Operation Regime Change” and “Mallio-WHO?-kis” (borrowing a line from BR Interpol 😉 )

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12 Comments
  1. Jig Lost Their Sanity permalink
    December 14, 2010 8:11 am

    John Mess has done it again!

  2. The Brooklyn GOP was big on false hope for Allegretti permalink
    December 14, 2010 8:15 am

    Several times I asked Allegretti what are you doing to make sure that you don’t have a primary.

    Each and every time the answer was almost the same. “The Grimm Campaign has no real support in the party and the leadership will convince him to pull out ______ ( by January, by March, before petitioning starts).”

    Over the summer I asked him what happened since there was an active Grimm – Allegretti primary fight that was leading towards the primary. He said something very telling, “Some key people on my side dropped the ball.”

    Who might that have been, I ask ironically!!!???

  3. Lora permalink
    December 14, 2010 4:35 pm

    Craig Eaton did nothing for Allegretti. Everyone I know has told me that.

    Kiss kiss…

  4. December 14, 2010 5:12 pm

    Community News

    by Harold Egeln (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 12-13-2010
    Ferraro Applauds State Majority, Seeks CooperationBy Harold Egeln
    Brooklyn Daily Eagle

    BENSONHURST — Once praised by then-president Ronald Reagan for his work as an assemblyman and his achievements as a former immigrant, educator and politician, Arnaldo Ferraro sees a greater Republican future in Brooklyn as long as the GOP works together better.

    “I am very pleased this state Senate now has a 32-30 Republican majority,” said Ferraro, who came to the U.S. in 1961, in an interview at the 17th Avenue headquarters of the Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Club. That makes for a better balance of power than one-party control, he said, referring to the Democrats’ control of the Assembly and the state House.

    Ferraro was the last Republican from Brooklyn to hold a seat in the Assembly, until he was defeated in 1986 by Democrat Peter Abbate. Staten Islander Matthew Mirones was a Republican Assemblyman in the cross-Narrows 60th District until four years ago, when he choose not to seek re-election.

    Abbate has won every election since, but had vigorous challenges by businesswoman Lucretia Regina-Potter in 2006 and 2008 and by university student Peter Cipriano this year.

    “When I won [the] election in 1984, a local weekly newspaper headlined: ‘Freda Loses to Ferraro’ and the way that was put said a lot,” he said of his victory over Democrat Assemblyman Louis Freda, who served from 1981 through 1984.

    Bensonhurst Was Once Republican

    Before Freda, the district covering Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and much of Dyker Heights and Borough Park was represented in the Assembly by Republicans such as Dominick Di Carlo (1967-1981), who died in 1999, and Luigi Marano (1957-1964), later a judge and now 89.

    Today the Republican foothold in Brooklyn is firmly in place with state Sen. Marty Golden of Bay Ridge in office since 2003. The other elected representatives from joint Staten Island-Brooklyn districts (Councilman James Oddo, part of whose district includes mid-Bensonhurst; Assemblywoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis and Congressman-elect Michael Grimm) are Staten Islanders.

    “When first elected Brooklyn Republican Party leader in 2007, Craig Eaton was a comparative newcomer to politics,” said Ferraro, a former county committee vice chair who lost a vigorous and contentious challenge to Eaton in 2009.

    “I have nothing against him. When anyone disagrees, which is part of the democratic process, nobody should take it personally. Disagreement keeps us strong and learning from our mistakes and moving forward,” said Ferraro. “The old axiom is true: united we stand, divided we fall.”

    When he was running for election in 1984, while still a teacher, he sought advisors and a staff “with real experience and knowledge” rather than starting from scratch. “In my modest opinion, we did well with that base of help, and it does work,” he said.

    “There’s no excuse for winning or losing. But there are reasons for losing,” Ferraro said. Looking at elections results then and now, he said, “It’s a simple matter of mathematics, which tells us a lot.”

    “Look, this year Abbate won with 7,416 votes and Cipriano lost with 4,659. But in 2008, though Regina-Potter lost to Abbate, she got 5,487 votes. Think about those results with over 800 more than Cipriano,” he said. “Regina-Potter did not have full party support, except here with us, while Cipriano had full party support and had a greater loss.”

    Even though Grimm and Malliotakis won, Ferraro noted that Democratic incumbents Congressman Michael McMahon and Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer topped Republicans in Brooklyn.

  5. Memories permalink
    December 15, 2010 2:40 am

  6. An outside observer permalink
    December 27, 2010 4:17 pm

    I tend to think Eaton & Company were behind Allegretti as a purposefully weak candidate, who they never had any intention of supporting with funds or volunteer foot soldiers. Sort of like in Staten Island, the GOP establihsment nominated Alligretti only to hold the GOP nomination open for some insane Fosella comeback. Were Eaton and Golden also trying to help Fosella get the nomination in 2012? We’ll never know now.

  7. Fledgling congressman Michael Grimm settles old Staten Island scores permalink
    January 5, 2011 10:24 pm

    Tuesday, January 04, 2011, 8:17 AM

    By Judy L. Randall

    STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Admitting it might be a “politically incorrect” move, incoming Rep. Michael Grimm said yesterday he has decided not to invite three top Republicans who failed to support his candidacy to his ceremonial swearing-in Sunday.

    Grimm said it would be “inappropriate” and “hypocritical” of him to ask state Sen. Andrew Lanza, Assemblyman Lou Tobacco and GOP chairman John Friscia to join him on stage at the College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts.

    “This is not a snub,” said Grimm. “I ran because Congress has failed to live up to certain standards. My election was about a new beginning for the Republican Party. I want people to be proud of their congressman. I would feel like a hypocrite to have them share the stage. And it would be hypocritical to the people who worked hard for me, like [Councilman] Vinnie Ignizio and Guy Molinari. It would degrade what they and all of my supporters did. I don’t want to start off my elective career that way.”

    Lanza and Tobacco backed Grimm’s failed primary opponent, Michael Allegretti, and never got around to endorsing Grimm in his general election battle with former Rep. Michael McMahon.

    Prior to the primary, in a shocking move, Friscia engineered the party nod for disgraced former Rep. Vito Fossella, whom Lanza and Tobacco supported. When Fossella said he would not run, Lanza and Tobacco switched their allegiance to Allegretti. Allegretti was viewed as the weaker candidate against McMahon, and thereby a possible place-holder for a Fossella comeback in 2012.

    Grimm (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) said Lanza and Tobacco had issued a series of “beyond inappropriate telephone robo calls” to fellow Republicans in support of Allegretti, “falsely demeaning and questioning my military record.”

    “It was unfit of them as Republicans,” said Grimm, a first-time elected official, decorated Gulf War Marine veteran and former FBI undercover agent. “After the primary, I was the Republican candidate. I felt they had an obligation to their party to support me. If there was a personal reason, where they felt they could not, that might have been something. But there was none; I had no prior relationship with them.”

    “Behind the scenes they were telling people to vote for Mike McMahon, that I couldn’t win,” continued Grimm, adding that Friscia “did absolutely nothing” for him in the general election and failed to even call to congratulate him on election night.

    “Sharing the stage with them would be like me supporting their behavior,” said Grimm. “This sends a clear message to everyone in the Republican Party that the way things have been handled are completely unacceptable. This is about setting standards for all of us as elected officials, as people and as Republicans. We can disagree with each other and have a spirited debate, but we have an obligation to treat each other with decency and respect. And we have an obligation to the people who do the grunt work in the campaigns, who knock on doors and get [petition] signatures, to conduct ourselves with honesty and transparency.”

    Grimm said he tried to set up a meeting with Lanza to tell him in person he wouldn’t be getting an invite, but said Lanza “is more difficult to get hold of than the president of the United States.”

    But Lanza (R-Staten Island) told the Advance conflicting holiday schedules prevented him from meeting with Grimm. Lanza also said he wanted to endorse Grimm in the general election, but was rebuffed — something Grimm called “simply not true.”

    “He is entitled to invite who he wants,” said Lanza, but said Grimm was “breaking with tradition” by failing to invite the borough’s full complement of elected officials.

    Grimm said he met with Tobacco in Tobacco’s Tottenville home yesterday to inform him of his decision. Grimm said Tobacco was “extremely gracious” and he believes the two will “work well together” in the future.

    Tobacco (R-South Shore) issued a statement saying he wishes “the congressman every success” and looks “forward to partnering with him.”

    Grimm, who will be officially sworn in tomorrow in Washington, D.C., said some in his camp told him his action could be seen as a breach of “political correctness,” but said he made his decision “independent” of their views.

    Grimm spoke to the Advance in McMahon’s old New Dorp congressional office, which he has assumed. Staffers buzzed about and Molinari — Grimm’s chief political strategist who accompanied the new congressman to Washington last night — was in attendance. The former borough president was wearing an exquisite Cartier watch, a gift from Grimm, engraved with the inscription: “With love and respect. Semper Fi. Michael.”

    (For updates from Washington as Michael Grimm is sworn into the House of Representatives today, go to silive.com/elections.)

    http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/01/fledgling_congressman_grimm_se.html

    • What about settling pre-primary scores on this side of the Narrows? permalink
      January 5, 2011 10:39 pm

      Parts of the KCRP leadership were way over the line AGAINST Grimm and FOR Allegretti before the September Primary. The bulk of the Brooklyn Reform Republicans helped Grimm before the primary.

      When the 2011 primary fight heats up, Grimm should dance with the uns dat brung’m tuh duh dance. Judge, Ferrarro and company…

  8. Change May Be Brewing in District 13 Politics permalink
    January 6, 2011 12:27 am

    The Brooklyn Ink

    Change May Be Brewing in District 13 Politics

    Wed, Jan 5, 2011
    By Beth Morrissey

    Michael Grimm’s election to the House of Representatives was a triumph for Republicans in the 13th congressional district, which spans Staten Island and southwest Brooklyn. But the win may also bring a change within the Staten Island Republican Party, and may also signal that new players are entering the island’s already crowded political playing field.

    The 13th district is where Republican Michael Grimm squared off against incumbent Michael McMahon in the race for the House of Representatives. Grimm was challenging the only Democrat to represent Staten Island in the House in over two decades. Grimm was an underdog in the Republican Party; he did not have the endorsement of the Staten Island Republican Party during the primaries. He did have the endorsement of the Conservative Party since March of last year.

    Data released last month by the New York City Board of Elections shows that Grimm did not have a plurality of votes without those he received from the Conservative Party. The data also shows that the Conservative Party received a greater percentage of votes in this election than it has in the past four elections in the 13th congressional district.
    The Conservative Party has been an important part of Staten Island politics for decades. But, it has not been the deciding factor in a congressional race in 13th district for at least the last four elections.

    Herb Berman, a special assistant for government relations at the CUNY graduate center, says that the results do not indicate that Grimm would not have won without the Conservative Party endorsement. Rather that the uptick in Conservative votes is a sign of discontent in the district. “It’s a reaction to the conventional leadership of the country as manifest in Albany and Washington,” he said.

    The uptick in votes for the Conservative Party is the latest twist in an eventful election season that was peppered with party-infighting and national endorsements.

    Grimm, a political newcomer, ran with the backing of former Staten Island Borough president, Guy Molinari. A long-time political heavy weight, Molinari has been involved in Staten Island politics for decades. Brooklyn political consultant Gerry O’Brien calls the 82 year-old Molinari the creator of the “modern Republican party on Staten Island.”

    “Guy is very much a chess player. He understands what politics is about,” said O’Brien .

    When deciding which candidate to back for the 2010 election, Molinari courted the Conservative vote and sent Grimm to meet with Conservative Party leaders.

    “Knowing that the state Conservative Party leader favored Grimm, I thought that there was a reasonably good shot that we could get the Conservative Party endorsement then,” said Molinari. “So that had some bearing in my decision to support and run the campaign for Michael Grimm.”

    Molinari is far from pleased with the current state of Republican politics on the island. “There is no Republican party to speak of today,” he said, when asked to characterize the Staten Island GOP.

    Molinari is also not shy about leveraging criticism against Staten Island Republican Party chairman, John Frisca, an ally of former-congressman Vito Fossella.

    “If you start checking the boxes…he’s done pretty well as chairman,” said Fossella.

    Molinari and Fossella have had a tumultuous relationship that has been a part of Staten Island Republican politics for over a decade.

    Fossella was elected to the House of Representatives in a special election in 1997 after the 13th district seat was vacated by Susan Molinari, Guy Molinari’s daughter. Susan Molinari was elected to the position in 1990 after her father vacated it. Fossella was elected to the position with the backing of Susan and Guy Molinari.

    But the relationship between Guy Molinari and Fossella disintegrated after that. In 2000 they were backing different presidential candidates, and in 2004 they were backing different candidates for the city council.

    Fossella held on to his congressional seat until 2008, when he chose not to run for re-election in the wake of scandal in which it was discovered that he had an illegitimate child with a woman in Virginia.

    It was during the 2008 election that the 13th congressional district elected McMahon to office. The Democrats won by a resounding margin that year, commanding over 60.93 percent of the vote. Republicans won a meager 33.31 percent. The Conservative Party, which did not endorse the Republican candidate that year, won 3.5 percent of the vote.

    Fossella retained influence in the Staten Island GOP. In May of 2010, the Staten Island Republican Executive Committee nominated Fossella to run against McMahon, overlooking both Grimm and Republican hopeful Michael Allegretti. Prior to that, Fosella had not announced an intention to run in the 2010 election.

    “I don’t think they really understood the anger level out there,” said O’Brien of the nomination. “Republican voters, independent voters, democratic voters would have been apoplectic.”

    The nomination certainly irked Guy Molinari, who described the GOP Staten Island convention as “bizarre.”

    “What the hell is that all about?” said Molinari “We put his name in nomination but you don’t know if he’s going to accept it?”

    The former house representative eventually turned down the nomination, and the party endorsed Allegretti, who had no appeal to the Conservative Party.

    “Michael Allegretti would not have been perceived as the Conservative Party candidate,” said Jerry Kassar, chairman of the Brooklyn Conservative Party, noting that he thought the Republican executive committee on Staten Island was out-of-step with the electorate.

    Grimm beat Allegretti in the Republican primaries, and then geared up to face McMahon in a contest that garnered national attention. The race was beset with endorsements from political heavy weights. Sarah Palin, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and George H. W. Bush stepped up to endorse Grimm. McMahon had the support of Michael Bloomberg, Andrew Cuomo, and Ed Koch.

    Grimm garnered 44.02 percent of the vote from Republican ballot line, just a hair behind McMahon who received 44.49 percent from the Democratic ballot line. But Grimm was able to eek out the win with 7.26 percent of the vote from the Conservative ballot line.

    Both candidates had the backing of third parties. But only the Conservative Party made a significant impact on the results. McMahon ran on the Independence ticket, but he only garnered 3.41 percent of the vote from that affiliation.

    O’Brien believes that the national trend carried Grimm over the “finish line.”

    Grimm may have benefited from the emergence of the tea party movement, which galvanized conservative politics in the last election.

    ‘Third parties…exist as a place for individuals who are disenchanted with the two other political parties to find a voice,” said Jerry Kassar, chairman of the Brooklyn Conservative Party. “Tea Party people I think found it more comfortable to vote on the Conservative Party line.”

    Frank Santarpia, co-organizer of the Staten Island Tea Party, makes it clear that his group does not officially endorse candidates. “We think our job is to keep our members informed on the issues,” said Santarpia, later noting that his group is primarily concerned with fiscal responsibility, small government, and free markets.

    “I think the old boy network now sees the writing on the wall,” said Santarpia of Grimm’s win. “It’s not a great leap that Tea Party people are going to want to be on the inside now.”

    Grimm’s win signals a challenge to Frisca’s chairmanship, which is up for election next year. Molinari says he plans on backing a new candidate for the position.

Trackbacks

  1. What Were They Thinking – Part II: “Operation Regime Change” « Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn
  2. Last Sunday’s Oath Ceremony, Absence of Input on Staff Picks, Highlights Eaton’s Lack of Influence With Grimm « Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn
  3. Craig Eaton’s Nemesis Arnaldo Ferraro Says “Brooklyn GOP Can Do Better” « Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn

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