There hasn’t been a Republican elected official in the Bronx since Guy Velella resigned in 2004. Tuesday’s election seems unlikely to break the trend.
The Bronx’s Democratic leanings are no secret. Since the mid-1960s Bronx voters have not elected more than a handful of Republicans. In a borough with 605,000 registered voters, only 6.4 percent are registered Republicans, according to numbers from Prime New York, a political consulting firm.
“Quite a few people don’t even realize there is a Republican party in the Bronx,” says Fred Ramftl, a Bronx GOP district leader for the 82nd assembly district.
Looking forward, Jerry Skurnik, a political consultant and cofounder of Prime New York, says the future does not look good for the party. He believes as the borough becomes more Hispanic, the GOP’s policies are scaring voters away.
“It doesn’t help the Bronx Republicans for the national Republican party to be perceived as not favorable to African-Americans and Hispanics,” says Skurnik.
Additionally, the Bronx Republicans’ leadership has been marred by corruption in recent years. Velella, a state State Senator and County Republican Party chairman, resigned in 2004 after being convicted of bribery. Vellela’s successor, Joseph J. Savino, resigned earlier this year after an unrelated bribery conviction.
Still, the Bronx GOP— made up of some 20 so-called district organizers and core staff — isn’t ready to throw in the towel. On Halloween, Bronx-born republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota stumped in City Island, a historic Republican stronghold. And district leaders like Ramftl still hold out hope, despite Democratic candidate Bill deBlasio’s 40-point lead over Lhota.
“To us there is not a challenge we can’t handle. In fact we always love a challenge,” says Ramftl.
For others though, it can be hard. “Sometimes it is disheartening,” says Elizabeth English, also a Bronx GOP district leader for the 82nd district. But, she believes her party is right for the people of the Bronx. “A Democrat will buy you the fish. They’ll get you the fish, they’ll clean the fish, cook the fish. A Republican will teach you how to fish.”
For many Bronx residents though, a Republican in office is unthinkable.
Sabrina Ramirez, 25, says she doesn’t know a single Republican, and never sees GOP candidates campaign. “To win the race, you got to get in the race and if we don’t see your face we just exclude you,” says Ramirez.
Others like Clayton Harris, a Pentecostal minister and lifelong Democrat from the South Bronx, believe Republicans just can’t win in the borough, no matter what they do. “The residents of the Bronx are not going to vote Republican. They’re just not going to do it,” he says.