NYC

Peter Koo, Queens City Councilman, Leaves GOP For Democratic Party

01/24/2012 10:13 am ET

Monday was rough for Republicans in the Empire State. Mayor Bloomberg prognosticated that a Democrat will likely be the next mayor of New York City-- lurid blog posts were uncovered under the name of Marc Cenedalla, a potential GOP challenger to Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand-- and Peter Koo, a Republican city councilman from Queens, officially defected to the Democratic Party.

Mr. Koo, an immigrant from Hong Kong who started a chain of pharmacies in Flushing, said he had been lured by the reach and influence of the Democratic leadership in his borough. But he also said that the anti-immigrant tenor of the national Republican Party had played a role in his decision.

"They can do more, surely they can do more to attract different minority groups to join the party," Mr. Koo said, when asked about the policies of the Republican candidates for president. "So far, they haven't done enough."

Koo's big switch reduces the GOP contingent in the Council to a meager 4, or 7.8 percent of the 51 members.

The Queens Republican party, despite a relative recent victory in electing Bob Turner to Representative Anthony Weiner's old seat, has faltered as of late, suffering from some serious infighting. And in an interview last week, GOP Councilman Eric Ulrich said Koo "did not feel appreciated by the Queens Republican Party and infighting in the county organization made him increasingly uncomfortable."

Another reason for Koo's defection could simply be money. A source told The Times Koo "could get more city money for his district" and "increase his odds of becoming a Council committee chairman."

Koo's announcement (which omitted the word "Republican") came on the Chinese New Year, a fact not lost on the councilman:

Today is the celebration of the Lunar New Year and all throughout the Asian Community it marks a new start, a rebirth and commitment to positive change. Therefore, it is befitting that I announce my decision to switch my political party affiliation to Democrat. This decision came after serious consideration and great deliberation with advisors, family and friends. And throughout the conversation, significant reasons were spotlighted for this change.

Robert Hornak, a spokesman for the Queens GOP, told The Daily News, "We're obviously very disappointed to see Councilman Koo leave the party," adding, "We'd like to think we were partly responsible for helping launch his career in politics. We wish him well and we look forward to working with him in the future for the community."

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