By Amanda Sakuma
City Council member Eric Ulrich of Queens’ 32nd district proved he’s no longer “just a kid,” reclaiming not only his seat in yesterday’s election, but also his title as the council’s youngest member. The 24-year-old Republican won even though 60 percent of registered voters are Democrats, beating an opponent who has been a civic leader since before Ulrich was a toddler.
Ulrich’s challenger, 60-year-old Democrat Frank Gulluscio, ran a campaign highlighting his experience as the former chief of staff to then City Councilman Joe Addabbo, but his efforts were not enough to persuade the 32nd district to drop their incumbent. Before Ulrich’s previous term, all of Queens was a Democrat stronghold in City Council. After yesterday’s elections, Republicans have picked up two more districts along with Ulrich’s, changing the face of the Democrat dominance in Queens.
This election cycle had Ulrich defending his seat after spending only seven months on the job. “The power of the incumbency cannot be underestimated,” he said. “We’ve done a lot in the seven months.” Ulrich first joined the City Council after a non-partisan election in February to replace Addabbo, who had been elected to the state senate. Candidates in the race were dropping left and right due to petition technicalities. Gulluscio made the list of those booted off the ballot after failing to garner enough valid signatures. It was a mistake his campaign was hoping to put behind them. “That was then, this is a new election,” David Giller of Gulluscio’s campaign said hours before the results rolled in.
For the general election, Ulrich received a nod of approval by Mayor Bloomberg, but according to Gulluscio, Ulrich got more than just an endorsement. Weeks before Election Day, Gulluscio filed a complaint with the Campaign Finance Board accusing Ulrich of accepting contributions from Bloomberg that exceeded the legal limits.
The controversy stems from Ulrich’s joint headquarters with the mayor in Rockaway. Though Ulrich’s campaign said they made efforts to “really differentiate” Ulrich from the mayor, they teamed up with Bloomberg to set up a headquarters located closer to their Rockaway Beach constituents. “We wanted to represent Rockaway, and I think people really appreciated it,” Ulrich’s campaign manager and old college buddy, Liam McCabe said. However, by citing an article featured in Rockaway’s community newspaper The Wave, Gulluscio’s campaign accused Ulrich of using Bloomberg’s staff and supplies. The article, a commentary written by Republican District Leader of the 23rd Assembly, Jane Deacy, quotes her saying she is “running the campaign office” for both candidates. Bloomberg has Deacy on his payroll and compensated her with a total of $9,773 since August.
On the day of the election McCabe claimed that he hadn’t heard the allegations. Ulrich on the other hand seemed more than aware of the accusations against him, saying he had paid and leased the space from Bloomberg. Ulrich downplayed the significance of the headquarters, pointing to the ground saying its size compared to “the space of four or five sidewalk squares.”
The CFB has yet to make any decisions on the matter. However, Ulrich did not seem concerned. With the elections behind him, and wedding plans for the end of the month, Ulrich is “the kid” who was one of the few Republicans in New York City to stand a chance against a Democrat, and prevailed.