A controversial guest list
A mix of controversial far-right guests, including some said to have ties to neo-Nazis or European political parties considered successors to the Nazi Party, is expected to convene at the New York Young Republican Club gala in Manhattan on Saturday.
Among them will be several Long Island faces, including Congressman-elect George Santos, former congressional candidate Robert Cornicelli, and Long Island Loud Majority founder Kevin Smith.
The black-tie event — which is costing attendees between $425 and $849 — will feature three “high-profile national speakers” — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Donald Trump Jr., and right-wing political operative and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Posobiec as an extremist who has “collaborated with white nationalists, antigovernment extremists, members of the Proud Boys, and neo-Nazis in his capacity as an operative.”
Former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani will be the “Toastmaster” for the event.
In advertising the gathering, the New York Young Republicans provide a lengthy list of “special guests” that includes Santos, Cornicelli and Smith, but also features familiar names like Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon. Perhaps less familiar are several European far-right activists and political players, including members of Germany’s Alternatives for Germany right-wing party and members of Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by an SS officer after World War II and is considered an outgrowth of the Nazi Party.
This isn’t the first time a New York Republican club has been connected to far-right organizations. In 2018, several members of the Proud Boys were arrested after they attacked protesters outside the Metropolitan Republican Club. After the incident, current Young Republicans President Gavin Wax wrote for the conservative website American Thinker: “It is not easy to be a Republican in New York City, but our ragtag group does the best we can to fight for conservative values in the belly of the beast.”
The New York Young Republican Club has not unveiled where its event will take place, saying only that the “venue will be disclosed to ticket purchasers within the week preceding the event.” By Friday afternoon, tickets were no longer being sold, as potential attendees were offered only an opportunity to join a waitlist.
Besides Santos, none of Long Island’s other Republican incoming congressional representatives are listed as expected guests. The New York Young Republican Club did not return requests for comment on whether its invitation list included any of the region’s other representatives.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
IDC déjà vu
It may be big news in Washington that, in a world of narrow partisan margins, a breakaway senator defies her party.
In Albany, of course, that’s just called the Independent Democratic Conference, the now-defunct group of state senators who went rogue starting in 2011, partnering with Republicans and embittering progressives for years.
Only one member of that crew still stands in the State Senate: Diane Savino, who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Savino told The Point on Friday that she didn’t think the IDC legacy was particularly analogous to the day’s bombshell announcement from Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema that she’ll leave the Democrats and become an independent.
Savino suggested that given the currents of national and Arizona politics, Sinema was simply making a decision that improves the “likelihood that she gets reelected.” She contrasted that with her depiction of what led to the infamous IDC breakaway in 2011: the chaos, misconduct, and disruption featured in the brief preceding period of Democratic control in the State Legislature. “We just didn’t want to be part of it anymore,” she said.
Sinema’s shift is likely to make life a bit trickier for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said in a Friday statement that he agreed to let the Arizonan keep her committee assignments.
“We will maintain our new majority on committees, exercise our subpoena power, and be able to clear nominees without discharge votes,” Schumer asserted. But there must be some déjà vu for the former assemblyman, who as a senator was often cajoled to be more vocally critical of the IDC before the group disbanded in 2018.
IDC leader Jeff Klein worked for Schumer in the Bronx when Schumer first ran for U.S. Senate, according to a 2017 Observer article.
Savino, who is soon expected to leave the State Senate for New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, said she didn’t think there would be a huge difference in the way Schumer would have to deal with the new breakaway. Sinema, after all, has long since figured out, in a very narrow majority, how to “manipulate it for her own purposes.”
“The truth is he's been dealing with her all along,” Savino said.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Ye who dine with Trump
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Long Islanders who chaired the RNC
When Rep. Lee Zeldin announced this week that he would not be running for Republican National Committee chair after all, he argued that the party in general must change its focus, including becoming “smarter with messaging” and “more present in Democrat strongholds.” In other words, emulate Zeldin’s own unsuccessful but very competitive run for governor in New York.
It was not the first time a Long Islander tried to leverage their Empire State experience onto the national stage to nab a post as head of the GOP.
In 1992, for example, Shelter Island resident Richard Bond got the RNC job, off the strength of his longtime relationship with George H.W. Bush, himself a former RNC chair. Bond had met the Brahmin star when he organized a Nassau County visit for Bush early in his career, according to a Newsday article at the time.
Bond was seen as a sharp-elbowed fighter eager to brawl — including the targeting of two House seats from his home county of Suffolk which were then held by Democrats.
Before Bond was Leonard Hall of Oyster Bay, who had served in the House and then as Nassau Surrogate before ascending to the top RNC job in 1953.
Hall had an interesting political bloodline of sorts on Long Island: His father had worked as a coachman for fellow Oyster Bay denizen Teddy Roosevelt.
A Newsday article announcing Hall’s new gig gave a colorful sense of the magnetic draw that politics seemed to have for Hall, as for many ambitious Long Islanders past and present: “The burly, balding man’s eyes gleamed behind his spectacles as he was queried on his feelings about returning to the political whirl.”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
East Side Access: 'Soon?'
The start of work on Penn Access — the effort to connect Metro-North Railroad to Penn Station — has long been discussed in conjunction with finishing work on, and opening, East Side Access, the Long Island Rail Road connection to Grand Central Terminal.
But as the groundbreaking for the Metro-North project took place Friday, an East Side Access opening date remains to be determined.
Nonetheless, the LIRR project clearly was on the minds of both Gov. Kathy Hochul and Sen. Chuck Schumer Friday.
“We have a lot more to do,” Hochul said. “We’ve done a lot. We’ve been working on projects. East Side Access — Stay tuned for that.”
She looked toward the front row of the audience, where Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief executive Janno Lieber was sitting.
“Not tipping off anything here, right? No dates?” Hochul asked. “Soon? OK.”
Schumer, too, mentioned East Side Access, as “something I’ve worked long and hard on.”
Lieber, meanwhile, mentioned the LIRR’s Third Track project, which is open, but did not refer to East Side Access in his remarks.
Even without “tipping off anything,” Hochul did make one promise about East Side Access.
“That is happening in my lifetime,” Hochul said. “That’s happening very soon. Stay tuned.”
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall