Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Republican Hopefuls Vie To Replace Gillibrand



You may not have heard of him, but the Republican and Conservative parties have chosen Mike Sapraicone as their candidate for United States Senate in a long-shot bid to defeat two-term incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand. In receiving the party nominations, Sapraicone will be able to bypass the petitioning process and get on the ballot automatically.

Sapraicone, 67, is a retired NYPD detective, community volunteer, small business founder and nationally-recognized security expert. He has lived on Long Island for 32 years and currently resides in the town of Oyster Bay with his wife, Eileen, a New York State Supreme Court Justice. They have five grown children and five grandchildren.

Josh Eisen addresses the NYGOP Convention in Binghamton in February.

There could be a primary for this seat. Also attempting to gain ballot access, doing it the hard way, is Josh Eisen, 52, a resident of Harrison, Westchester County. He is a divorced father of three children. “When I go to services,” Eisen says, he attends the Young Israel Young Israel in Harrison. I’m not looking for definitions . . . I do as many mitzvahs as I can do.” He grew up in Queens, attending the Young Israel of Hillcrest and other shuls in the area.

Harrison is one of the last Republican strongholds in Westchester County. If Eisen is successful in gaining ballot access and then wins the June primary, the rhetoric over Israel will take center stage.

“[Gillibrand] . . . needs to support Israel politically. She purports to support Israel. Either she lacks the intelligence, the understanding that she buys into that whole Ivy League thing and continues to allow universities to be funded with subsidized loans and continue their not-for-profit status . . . . In those universities they teach vitriol that scars Israel’s right to exist. They paint Israel as a nation of oppressors and many of them speak of Jews as oppressors,” Eisen said. “She won’t touch that issue because she’s afraid of the backlash at the university. Deep down she wants to be perceived as an intelligent person by respected intellectuals that come from those places.”

Eisen has earned a reputation for commitment to community and having the drive to get things done. He is a father of three, a self-described humanitarian, lifelong New Yorker and successful business owner.

“I’ve resold companies for $35 million, for $245 million, just to give you an idea of the scope of the deals we’re making. Over the past two years I probably gave well over a million bucks to charities,” he said. “I donated three Torahs to Yeshiva University just now and to Israel after the war broke out. They don’t need our food. They have that. What they need is moral support so I dedicated a Torah there in kibbutz Kfar Aza right where the festival was.”

Eisen says his father survived Auschwitz, slave labor and the Communist Revolution in Hungary before immigrating to the United States. Eisen says on his website that his experiences as the child of immigrants “have inspired his love of community, pride in his heritage, and commitment to ensuring that the American Dream isn’t blocked by big government intervention in our lives.”

Mike Sapraicone addresses the NYGOP Convention in Binghamton.

“We’re just going to get on the ballot, and primary Sapraicone and beat him and then run against Gillibrand. Things are as expensive or as cheap as you make them. We’ll be efficient. We’ll get it done,” Eisen said.

Meanwhile, Sapraicone, Eisen’s potential opponent, is not fond of having a primary.

“I think it’s a poor choice, but that’s his choice. The people have a right to do that. I don’t think it is a good thing for the party but we’ll see how it plays out,” Sapraicone said. “We’re going to work hard. Those numbers may turn out to be the same after we both spent a lot of money that we need to defeat Gillibrand. We’re going to waste the money on a primary, that’s the American way and I’m okay with that [but] I think it’s silly.”

At last month’s Republican convention in Binghamton, Sapraicone received 84.19 percent of the delegate vote. Eisen received a mere 7.78 percent but vowed to continue the campaign. He must file his petition signatures during the first week of April.

In other political news, the Staten Island Republican Committee was the first county committee to unanimously endorse Donald Trump for president.

“This November, our country faces a choice that will have long-lasting consequences,” said Assemblyman Michael Tannousis, chairman of the Staten Island Republican Party. “We can continue down the path we’re on; one of economic downturn with the cost-of-living skyrocketing; one that has open borders with no end to the migrant crisis; and one that threatens the very fabric of our nation. Or we choose to elect Donald J. Trump, a leader who has demonstrated his unwavering patriotism, commitment to conservative ideals, and bold leadership that will ensure our great country thrives for generations to come.”

Governor Kathy Hochul weighed in with a strong rebuke.

“Donald Trump will be defeated no matter which state ballot he appears on,” Hochul said. “I admire the state’s that stepped up to try to implement [preventing him from being on their state ballot], based on their reading of their constitution. It doesn’t matter. Donald Trump will lose.”

Earlier this week, the Republicans in the Senate and Assembly issued a statement endorsing Trump and slamming Biden’s record.

“Donald Trump is the clear choice – the only choice – to lead America for the next four years and has our endorsement for president of the United States. More than ever, our country needs a Commander-in-Chief who is fully qualified and committed to the success, sovereignty and security of our great nation. President Trump achieved that in his first term and will once again deliver for the American people”, said Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt and Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay in a joint statement.

“Joe Biden’s tenure in office has been a disaster both home and abroad. He has overseen the country’s worst inflation in 40 years, stood idle as nine million illegal immigrants flooded across our borders, allowed foreign conflicts to play out on multiple fronts and orchestrated a withdrawal from Afghanistan that left 13 Americans dead. Joe Biden’s job-approval rating is among the worst in history for a reason – he’s earned it. President Trump provides the strong, capable, common-sense leadership to restore American greatness now and well into the future.”

At the GOP conclave, Sapraicone was the only one to mention Trump by name.

“To save our state and our country, we need to counter, confront and defeat Kirsten Gillibrand, who is a rubber stamp for Joe Biden, and has done nothing to help our state of New York,” Sapraicone said. “This is why I decided to challenge her. To get America back on track. To help defeat Biden and to recapture control of the U.S. Senate. As New York’s voice in the Senate, I will partner with President Trump to end the migration crisis and to increase our economy. I will be a senator who upholds the highest standards of honor and integrity. I am a New Yorker through and through.”

During the convention, it was revealed that Sapraicone made a contribution to a nemesis of the Republican Party, Letitia James, the state’s attorney general.

“I donate. That’s what you do as a business person. If I did it, I did it. A thousand dollars [to the attorney general’s campaign]. I gave $500,000 to the Republican party,” Sapraicone admitted.

Eisen pounced when this was brought to his attention.

“When someone says as a businessman, ‘I give to both sides,’ what they are saying is, ‘I am corrupt.’ I never gave a democrat money like that. I don’t give money as a businessman. The only way I give money is to an ideologue for things I believe in,” Eisen said.

“I would never give money to a politician if I thought it would help me. I just think that answer is pathetic. That answer should tell you everything you need to know about the corruption in the party right now. The party is not unified. The party is torn apart. The party bosses made a decision to select somebody who is not representative of the party values. Therefore, there will be a primary and he will lose.”

The legislature has wrapped up joint budget hearings, and each house issued their version of adjusting Hochul’s proposed $332 billion spending plan. This month, a three-way agreement will be hammered out with the hope of achieving an on-time budget by Monday, April 1.

Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Helene Weinstein, 71, announced her retirement after 41 years in the lower house. The district encompasses the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Sheepshead Bay, Flatlands, parts of East Flatbush, Midwood and Canarsie.

Another 10 retirements in the Assembly were announced and five in the Senate. Weinstein is the only Jewish member in the legislature who decided to hang it up and move on. Weinstein is counsel to her family’s personal-injury law firm, Weinstein, Chase, Messinger & Peters, P.C. She has been licensed to practice law in New York since 1977.


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].