The case of the vanishing Republican

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It’s RIP for the moderate Manhattan GOP, a street-level analysis of last week’s election found. Once the party showcased names like Lindsay, Javits and Rockefeller — now, its candidates get crushed in their own backyards


  • Dr. Jeffrey A. Ascherman campaigning on Lexington Avenue and 83rd Street for a state Assembly seat on the Upper East Side. The Republican won just 24 percent of the ballot, but his tally appears to have bested that of all 17 other GOP candidates in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Dr. Ascherman for Assembly Campaign

  • Republican Naomi Levin campaigning at a West 96th Street subway stop in her bid to topple incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler. She lost the two square blocks near her home by a 6.1-to-one vote margin. Photo courtesy of Naomi Levin for Congress Campaign

  • Eliot Rabin at his upscale men's clothing store on Lexington Avenue and East 72nd Street. A Republican challenger to longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney on the Upper East Side, he lost his own block with just 18 percent of the vote -- and managed only 12.7 percent of the ballot overall. Photo: Douglas Feiden

  • Underdog Republican Pete Holmberg campaigning with volunteers at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 68th Street in his losing bid to oust Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger. He lost the two square blocks near his Murray Hill home by a 6.2-to-one vote margin. Photo courtesy of Holmberg for New York

“A lot of people on the street would just flat out refuse to take my campaign literature.”

Pete Holmberg, losing GOP candidate for East Side state Senate seat


In the typical political shellacking, the losing candidate usually ekes out a tiny symbolic victory by winning the block on which he or she lives.

Not this year: At least four Republican pols were thrashed on Election Day by margins so lopsided they didn’t even carry their own streets.

Literally. They were routed by landslides in areas that include their own apartment buildings and fall within one to three square blocks of their homes, a Straus News street-level analysis of the Nov. 6 balloting found.

In micro-neighborhoods on the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Murray Hill, GOP aspirants for two Congressional seats and a state Senate and state Assembly seat garnered on average one vote for every 5.25 votes piled up by Democratic incumbents, according to a review of online New York City Board of Elections records.

What happened? President Donald Trump. Sparking a great backlash in his home borough, he energized, even inflamed, Democrats seeking to repudiate his policies and personality, shattering turnout records for a midterm election and punishing those who share his party affiliation.

The scale of the sweep may push the once-proud moderate wing of the Manhattan Republican Party — historically, an incubator of presidential hopefuls, but a vanishing breed for decades — ever closer to extinction.

To gauge the fate of its standard-bearers, Our Town and The West Side Spirit examined the results in the borough’s 12 state Assembly Districts, or ADs. The papers then drilled down into individual Election Districts, or EDs, the state’s smallest political jurisdictions, which encompass an area as little as one city block or as large as two to three square blocks.

There are thousands of EDs in Manhattan alone, mini-districts that in a high-turnout general election pinpoint far broader trends. Among the findings of the Straus News analysis of the returns:

• Clothier and former U.S. Army Captain Eliot Rabin, who mounted an uphill Republican challenge to unseat longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the 12th Congressional District on the Upper East Side, lost the ED in which he lives by a 5.6-to-one margin.

He managed just 91 votes on the single square block bounded by 81st Street on the south, 82nd Street to the north, First Avenue to the west and York Avenue to the east — while Maloney pulled down 510 votes. Rabin was also trounced in all 103 EDs of the 76th Assembly District, his home base.

It may be scant comfort, but the 18 percent of the ballot he won on his own block exceeded the 12.7 percent he claimed overall in the 12th CD.

“The support I received from the Republican Party was negligible,” Rabin said. “But I did much better than expected since no one seemed to think I’d get more than three or four percent.”

Contrast that with an earlier incarnation of the same district that elected its most celebrated Republican to Congress exactly 60 years ago — John V. Lindsay, who served from 1959 to 1965 and became a two-term mayor with Liberal Party support from 1966 to 1973. Along the way, he became a Democrat in 1971, launching an abortive presidential bid in 1972.

• Software engineer and daughter of Soviet-Jewish refugee parents Naomi Levin, who attempted the near-impossible mission of dislodging Democratic fixture U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler in the 10th Congressional District on the Upper West Side, Chelsea and downtown, lost the ED in which she resides by a 6.1-to-one vote margin.

She received just 54 votes in the two square blocks bounded by 84th Street on the south, 85th Street to the north, West End Avenue to the west and Amsterdam Avenue to the east, where Nadler locked up 330 votes. Levin also lost all 114 EDs in the West Side’s 67th Assembly District handily.

By contrast, Nadler scored an 88 percent knockout — 378-to-51 votes — in his home ED, located west of West End Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets.

Like Rabin, Levin faulted the GOP establishment for not providing her with support, thinking she had little chance of winning.

It seems hard to believe, but liberal Republicans were once competitive on the Upper West Side: In 1946, a young anti-Tammany reformer named Jacob Javits was elected to what is now the Nadler seat, serving in the House until 1954 and moving up to become U.S. Senator for a quarter-century.

“Though we may have come up short in this race, we’ve undoubtedly started a movement that has fundamentally changed the debate in my beloved city of New York,” Levin said.

The district includes a swath of Brooklyn, and Levin noted that while she got 19 percent of the overall vote, she mustered 45 percent in more conservative Brooklyn precincts — even though, she added, “Jerry Nadler overspent me 25 times over.”

• Prominent plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey A. Ascherman, who sought to topple Democratic state Assembly Member Dan Quart in the old Silk Stocking District to become the first medical doctor in the Legislature, lost his home ED by a 3.1-to-one margin.

He received 115 votes in the three square-block area between 86th and 89th Streets and Third and Lexington Avenues, while Quart chalked up 361.

Still, he appears to have outperformed fellow Republicans both with that losing tally on his home blocks and in the overall results in the 73rd Assembly District, where he won 24 percent of the ballot.

“I was told that of 18 races with Republican candidates in Manhattan, I had the highest percent,” Dr. Ascherman he said. “But it’s still a long way away from winning elective office.”

Citing a polarized electorate nationally and an unhealthy one-party system in the city, he told of a line he’d often heard repeated on the campaign trail:

“People would tell me, ‘You’re a good candidate, but we have to vote a straight Democratic ticket so we have to vote against you,’” he said.

• Licensed real estate sales agent Pete Holmberg, who tried to oust the long-serving, liberal-left Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger in the 28th Senate District on the Upper East Side and Midtown East, lost the ED in his own backyard by a 6.2-to-one margin.

He got just 48 votes in the two square-block area between 32nd and 34th Streets and Third and Lexington Avenues in Murray Hill, while Krueger nabbed 297.

“It was the best experience of my life,” Holmberg said. The drubbing he took can’t be blamed on voting patterns. “I lost because I failed as a candidate,” he added. “But there’s no embarrassment in losing to Senator Krueger. She’s a very formidable opponent.”

Still, the wholesale rejection of the Republican Party in Manhattan was tough to miss: “A lot of people on the street would just flat out refuse to take my campaign literature,” Holmberg said.

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