Ragusa’s tenure got off to a good start. There were Republican victories in the City Council with Peter Koo, Dan Halloran, and Eric Ulrich. I remember him asking me in 2008 if I wanted to run for the City Council in Kew Gardens. I briefly thought about writing the column while running – the way that Upton Sinclair did in California in 1934.
I ultimately decided against that idea, but if Ragusa had a legacy it was this: he allowed people to get involved. Not all party leaders (and party bosses, if we go back far enough) like running candidates. Party chairs can see a candidacy as too much work for what might not be enough return. Ragusa was not like that.
Ragusa’s time leading the party was stressful. In 2009, Ragusa rightfully stood by Republican City Council candidate Dan Halloran when news broke that Halloran was a practicing religious pagan. Although Halloran has every right to practice what he wishes, the strangeness of it would have pushed most party bosses out of their comfort zone.
Halloran should have kept that loyalty in mind when he considered circumventing the party, which ultimately embarrassed Ragusa. Then Ragusa’s vice chair, Vince Tabone, went rogue and brought unneeded stress to his door.
In 2012, the Queens GOP should have gotten behind Councilman Eric Ulrich when he ran for the State Senate in the 15th District, especially when Ulrich was Mitt Romney’s chosen party representative in New York City. The primary caused unnecessary drama, but one cannot un-ring a bell. Leading a political party is a thankless job, and Ragusa managed to do it for seven years.
A good party boss is not solely a tactician. Candidates today come in with their own consultants and machinery. Party leaders need to also love Queens, because that is what all of this ultimately leads to – the quality of life of people in Bayside, Rockaway, Howard Beach, etc.
Phil Ragusa was a party leader who loved Queens, and that matters. Rest in peace, Phil. Thank you for your service to the community.
It’s Still Not Over (Even Though It’s Really Over)
At the time of writing this column, the Mets are seven games out of first place in a relatively weak National League East division. The eastern divisions of both leagues have been uncharacteristically so-so this year.
This means that the Mets, even with their seven-game deficit and being eight games under .500, are still in the race for this division. The odds of them making the playoffs, according to ESPN, are around 12 percent, but that can change with one strong week.
Do the Mets have a strong week in them, the kind where they sweep twice or come close? That is the question for the front office. This team is technically still in the race, but its front office has left the building. They can make a deal and find themselves within three games of first place after the All-Star break. That, however, would require spending money and making a trade.
In 1983, the Mets traded Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey for Keith Hernandez. They need to do something like that again. To date, they have scored only one less run than they have surrendered all season. That is a run differential of minus one. That means other teams are not beating them by very much.
The Yankees, on the other hand, have a run differential of minus thirty-two. Even with the Yankees hitting so poorly, they are close to their division lead. The Mets can be in it too, but they need to get on the phone and make a deal. This is next year.