Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Alexander Mici speaks at GOP Convention.

At the Republican Nominating Convention held February 28 and March 1 at the Garden City Hotel, you couldn’t turn around without bumping into a Jew wearing a yarmulka, black hat and tzitzis networking with political candidates as if they were old friends. Prestigious rabbonim were called upon to offer opening and closing prayers at the convention.

“I like Lee Zeldin very much,” Rabbi Shimon Kramer, spiritual leader of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Merrick, Nassau County, told The Jewish Press. “I think he’s a great guy… He has a Jewish soul, a neshama, and he’s very much proud of it. We’re proud of him. We’re not judgmental. We look at him the way he is.”

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Kramer issued the closing prayer on the first day of the convention.

“My rabbi and mentor, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory, would continuously remind us that our country, the United States of America, is a nation of deep faith and great kindness. Every good deed brings healing and unity to a world so fractured making it a more G-dly and kinder place. Let our beautiful community serve as a beacon of light and a force for good, tipping the scale of good over evil for the entire world.”

At the end of the convention, Lee Zeldin, from Shirley, Suffolk County, was nominated to be at the top of the statewide ticket. Party sources told The Jewish Press the state chairman, Nick Langworthy, is trying to ingratiate himself with the Orthodox Jewish community and other ethnic groups, such as Asians. Both groups have one thing in common: an increase in hate crimes against them.

Throughout the nominating process for U.S. Senate, for comptroller, attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor, it appears the delegates had their minds made up, and anyone challenging the frontrunners could not get the 25 percent of the weighted delegate vote to achieve ballot status and must go the petition route to gain ballot access.

Party favorite Joe Pinion, 37, out-paced challenger Alexander Mici, 46, in his bid to become the challenger to incumbent Charles Schumer, who is running for his fifth six-year term. Pinion received 82 percent of the weighted vote to Mici’s 18 percent.

Mici, a Bronx attorney who came to the United States from Albania in 1990, tried to appeal to the immigrant vote.

“This is a very important race and it’s a race we can win but we need the immigrants, otherwise we’re not bringing anybody into the fold,” Mici told convention-goers. “I can bring in 500,000 Albanians and I can speak to the experience of all immigrants. We need to consider that this year.

“I come from a Communist country. I was born in Albania in 1975 and lived there for 15 years. We have been robbed of our livelihoods, we’ve been robbed of our dignity, we’ve been robbed of everything we had. That’s why I organized an uprising against the Communist system in Albania. I risked my life with other 15-year-olds to overthrow that system. Then I had to flee for fear of persecution on a ship with 30,000 people. That’s what socialism does to you and that’s what we’re facing here today. I’m the only immigrant in this race and the first immigrant to be on a statewide ticket,” Mici added.

Mici told The Jewish Press he will move forward with a petitioning process to secure the necessary 15,000 valid signatures from Republicans across the state.

“We are a stronger party when we ride together,” said Pinion, a former anchor and political commentator on Newsmax TV. “We may not agree on the things we need to do but we are united in one quest, which is to make sure we put Chuck Schumer in the retirement home of politics once and for all.”

“I never understood how our government could get something so big so wrong,” Pinion told the conventioneers. “My government has failed me. Increasingly the disasters destroying our dreams are a nightmare of our own government’s making. One million New Yorkers have fled because they see the floodwaters rising. A flood of homelessness, a flood of joblessness, a flood of educational neglect, a flood of government-sanctioned despair. The dam hasn’t fully burst yet but anyone who is paying attention can tell you the American dream is about to go bust.

“For 24 years Chuck Schumer has been a rubber stamp on America’s decline and America’s decay. He’s been roaming the halls of Congress longer than I’ve been drawing breath on this Earth. Forty-two years and counting, and we are a state of 19 million and shrinking because the man we have entrusted to lead is more concerned with staying in power than empowering people.

“We lead the nation in outward migration as our working-class state, filled with working-class people, has run out of working-class opportunities to sustain prosperity because too many politicians believe that prosperity is one tax hike away, that happiness lives right around the corner from one more government program. We the people are no longer their priority. He’s given us a trail of broken promises and a graveyard of shattered dreams. We know New York deserves better,” Pinion concluded.

There was only one name put forward to challenge the ever-popular incumbent Thomas DiNapoli. Paul Rodriguez is a Queens native now living in Brooklyn with his wife and two of his three daughters. He has spent 15 years in the financial services industry on Wall Street. He ran for the position of New York City Comptroller in 2021 as a conservative. He garnered a mere 5.6 percent of the vote with more than 55,000 New Yorkers choosing him as the city’s fiscal watchdog.

“The Democratic Party is the home of the ruling elite. The party of censorship of state media, of mask mandates and vaccine passports, of crime and public disorder. The Democrats also claim to be the party of diversity. They don’t mean the diversity of opinion, which is the only type of diversity that really matters; to the Democratic Party, diversity is but a shallow and cynical notion. It is nothing more than a group of people who look different but all think exactly the same way,” Rodriguez told the convention.

“As a Latino I never felt welcome in the Democratic Party. My politics are driven by my values, not the other way around. The Republican Party has always reflected my values the best – a belief in hard work, personal responsibility, family, economic independence and stewardship of the community and each other.”

One of the more poignant moments at the convention was the nomination for attorney general. The battle was between John Sarcone and Michael Henry; neither are household names.

Sarcone lost his bid for the Conservative Party nod when it was revealed just days before the convention that he represented a convicted murderer on an appeal, a circumstance Sarcone admits to but maintains was blown out of proportion and wrongfully criticized. Sarcone was apparently the frontrunner among the GOP.

“I don’t do criminal law,” Sarcone said. “The appeal was never about overturning the conviction for murder. The appeal was to force the criminal justice system and the corrections system to acknowledge the fact that a defendant had a long-term mental infirmity and suffered from what was coined extreme emotional disturbance at the time of this heinous act. That case was overturned by the Appellate department in Brooklyn. It went to the state’s highest court and they affirmed it. The only reason they affirmed it was because he had mental illness and suffered an extreme emotional disturbance at the time. He was resentenced to 20 years in prison and he’s still in jail.”

During his speech at the convention, Sarcone still made the case for why he would be the better candidate to oppose Democrat Letitia James.

“The NYS Attorney General’s office has 1,800 employees, including more than 700, attorneys and a fiscal year budget of $243 million. The next attorney general has to have the legal, managerial and political experience to take on this awesome responsibility. I believe I have all those qualities and would turn that office around to work for the people, not against them. To work for law enforcement not against them,” added Sarcone, who has raised a quarter-million dollars in less than three months.

State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy called Sarcone’s bowing out “a selfless gesture and we have not heard the last of John Sarcone.”

Henry won the nomination by acclamation. In a 19-minute acceptance speech to a packed convention hall, Henry laid out his platform.

“Nothing is going well by any measure. Everywhere we look, what do we see? We see destruction. We see crime. We see death. That’s all because of one-party Democrat control of this state,” Henry said. “The Working Families are the original socialists, and Letitia James was born out of this party. We have to stand here as Republicans and reject that. We have to stand here as Republicans and say we will stand side by side with police officers who strap on a bullet-proof vest every day and risk their lives for complete strangers. We have to be the party that will put victims’ rights ahead of criminals’ rights. We have to be a party that’s going to stand up and put an end to victim-generating bail reform laws and stop this pro-criminal mentality agenda in this state.”

Henry then elaborated on his campaign strategy that goes beyond the target of securing 33 percent of the New York City vote, a key marker needed along with the upstate vote.

“We’re going to reach out to those soft Democrats, the people who might be registered Democrat but will vote for a Republican for president, the suburban mom who might be worried that her husband is commuting into the city every day and she’s worried that he’s going to get hurt on his way into work,” Henry said. “We’re going to change the face of the Republican Party [by attracting the ethnic vote] and by doing that we will change the face of New York State forever.”

At least one elected official was thrilled with the current slate of candidates.

“We have a great chance [to win] in November 2022. Bail reform is number one on the list of issues on campaign talking points. The rise of crime under this party is soaring,” Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral, an Iranian-born gynecologist by profession, told The Jewish Press. “If Lee concentrates on what’s happening with the economy and the safety and security issues; more importantly, that we have lost and people are scared of leaving their house without proper security; those are the things he really needs to drive home. Hate crimes and antisemitism are on the rise everywhere. Antisemitism is the litmus test of racism in America. If you allow and invite antisemitism then you allow any type of racism. Tolerance must be taught because antisemitism is one of the oldest types of racism.”

Bral is the director of the division of minimally invasive and robotic surgery with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maimonides Medical Center, according to his LinkedIn account. He davens at Torah Ohr, an Orthodox congregation in Great Neck.

Rabbi Chanan Krivisky, spiritual leader of the Chabad of Jericho, and Nick Langworthy during the Invocation.

Before the dinner festivities began, Rabbi Chanan Krivisky, spiritual leader of the Chabad of Jericho, offered the evening prayer.

Krivisky focused his remarks on the seven Noahide Laws. The seven laws include prohibitions against worshipping idols, cursing G-d, murder, adultery and sexual immorality, theft, eating flesh torn from a living animal as well as the obligation to establish courts of justice.

“We should be profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles … that threatens the fabric of our civilized society,” Krivisky said. “We know we will not lose sight of our responsibility to transmit these historical, ethical values from our distinguished past and give them to generations of the future. We can return education, charity and justice – to the world of these ethical and moral principles. Let us uphold these seven Noahide Laws, may you G-d be a protector and shield all that is right making known to all your sacred presence Holy G-d. Give us the wisdom and courage to adhere to and stand up for justice and peace, making our world, our nation, our state as communities and residences a dwelling place for you O G-d. We reserve to use the power of light to push away all darkness. G-d bless us all together with success and tranquility for all of our days.”

The evening featured dinner speaker South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who took a veiled swipe at New York Governor Kathy Hochul. For Noem, 50, it’s party affiliation over gender identification.

“It’s incredibly important that we never lose sight of the fact that leadership has consequences,” Noem warned the GOP. “That’s why you guys need a new governor and I’m going to do everything I can to help you get a new governor because you need one. My good friend Lee Zeldin would be a fantastic governor. The liberals will let fear promote their agenda.”

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of The Jewish Press for the exciting conclusion of the events from the State Republican Nominating Convention.

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.