By David Brand
The Republican nominee for Queens District Attorney is willing to step aside to allow former Judge Gregory Lasak to run on the GOP line in the November general election, he told the Eagle.
“Judge Lasak is a neighbor of mine and I think he’d be a good candidate,” said attorney Daniel Kogan, who lives near Lasak in South Richmond Hill and ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.
Kogan said he would agree to a New York state political maneuver known as Wilson Pakula, which enables a party to open the general election ballot to another person who is not a member of the party. The GOP would assign Kogan to a different position on the ballot, possibly somewhere else in the state.
“That’s quite likely. I’d really consider it,” Kogan said, adding that his own candidacy is “definitely a longshot.”
The GOP used the Wilson Pakula Law to nominate Democrat Robert Holden as their candidate for Council District 30 in 2017. Holden defeated incumbent Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley in the general election after losing to her in the Democratic primary.
Kogan said he was asked by the Republican Party to run and did not seek out the nomination. Another party member told the Eagle that Kogan was a “placeholder candidate.” The New York Post reported Wednesday that Kogan was not sure he would run an active campaign.
The Queens GOP did not respond to request for comment.
Lasak did not rule out seeking the GOP nomination during his Election Night party in Bayside, Tuesday.
“I’m just absorbing everything,” Lasak told the Eagle. “I haven’t thought about it.”
His campaign spokesperson declined to discuss the idea Tuesday and did not immediately respond to request for comment Thursday.
Lasak sipped from a tumbler of whiskey on the rocks as he hugged family and friends before greeting the crowd of cops, prosecutors, former judges and other supporters who gathered at the election night event.
He was getting trounced by public defender Tiffany Cabán and Borough President Melinda Katz, the early election returns made clear, and the mood was tense before Lasak took the microphone to deliver his concession speech.
“I love this county. I have no intention of moving out of this county so don’t worry about anything. OK? This is just a little bump in the road,” Lasak said.
“This isn’t a funeral,” he added.
Indeed, several supporters at the party saw it as an opportunity, and said Lasak is the last hope to defeat Cabán and her platform of radical reform.
“For our sake and the sake of our families, we cannot allow these progressive socialists to take control of the District Attorney’s Office,” said defense attorney and ex-cop Joe Murray. “If Cabán wins, County Democrats who voted for Katz will back Greg, plus the third party lines.”
Cabán leads Katz by about 1,100 votes with more than 5,000 absentee and affidavit ballots left. Katz has refused to concede until every ballot is counted.
“I think he should go for it,” said Tommy Folchette, a childhood friend of Lasak and a retired sanitation worker. “This is what he always wanted.”
The shift to the Republican party would be a significant change for Lasak, who was the presumptive heir to late-DA Richard Brown, also a Democrat, for many years before he fell out of favor with Queens Democratic Party leadership. The county party has endorsed Katz for Queens DA.
Late-Queens County Clerk Gloria D’Amico, an influential Democratic party leader who died in 2010, advocated for Lasak to take over the top prosecutor job when Brown eventually left. Brown announced in January that he would step down June 1 — the 28th anniversary of his first assuming the role. He died in May.
Lasak recalled his close relationship with D’Amico in his speech Tuesday.
“When I started this, my political godmother was Gloria D’Amico. I can’t start to tell you what she meant to me and still means to me,” he said before acknowledging her son Lenny D’Amico, his campaign treasurer.
D’Amico, he said, was watching him and his campaign team from above and urging them to stay strong in defeat.
“She’d tell you, ‘Wash it out of your system, we’ll talk about it tomorrow,’” Lasak said. “That’s what Gloria would say.”
The Post also reported that the GOP might consider offering the nomination to Katz if she loses to Cabán after the final vote count is certified, likely some time next week.
That scenario could lead to some key deal-making for Republicans, two party members told the Eagle. They asked to remain anonymous discussing court and party business.
The Queens GOP will likely seek access to Surrogate’s Court assignments — lucrative opportunities to administer wills and estates while collecting a percentage of the assets, the Republican party members said. The court is controlled by the Queens County Democrats.
Katz and Cabán’s campaign did not respond to request for comment. Michael Reich, spokesperson for the Queens County Democratic Party, did not respond to multiple phone calls either.
Former Queens County GOP Executive Director Robert Hornak said it is unlikely Katz would seek the nomination, however.
Hornak praised Lasak but criticized the party for not drafting a more compelling and committed candidate earlier in the process.
“Ideologically, Lasak is much more in line with Republican values and ideas than Katz,” he said.
“I don’t know him. I don’t want to put words in the man’s mouth, but he’s a respectable guy.”
“If the circumstances were different, he would make a good Republican candidate. But he’s not a Republican,” he added.
Hornak said the GOP’s decision not to run a committed candidate was the latest failure of a party in disarray
“The reality is this just exemplifies the current Queens GOP,” he said. “How much more failure can we expect from our own party?”