Varying theories have surfaced for why Councilman Peter Koo changed his registration from Republican to Democratic this afternoon. These explanations range from the cynical to the optimistic. A New York Times source believed as a Democrat, Councilman Koo “could get more city money for his district” and “increase his odds of becoming a Council committee chairman.” However, Queens Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley was more circumspect in how he phrased it.
“I think what Peter realizes, in many respects, it is dominated by Democrats, the City Council, and having more say, more input for his constituency is also important,” he said. And while he declined to deliberately speculate on whether Mr. Koo would head an important Council committee, he did say he was ”sure that the Council and the Speaker will find a way to utilize Peter’s talents.”
Others have speculated that the Queens Republican Party simply didn’t do enough to keep Mr. Koo in the party, and that the openly hostile dispute between internal factions made him feel unwelcome. In an interview last week, Councilman Eric Ulrich echoed these thoughts, saying his colleague “did not feel appreciated by the Queens Republican Party and infighting in the county organization made him increasingly uncomfortable.”
“Actually, it was only a small part of my decision,” Mr. Koo said when asked how the Republican civil war influenced his party change. “The Democratic Party has done much more than the Republican Party locally. It’s why I’m joining the Democratic Party.” Mr. Koo additionally turned down multiple opportunities to take shots at the local GOP. “I don’t want to criticize them, but comparatively, the Democratic Party has more leadership.”
Mr. Crowley showed no interest in discussing the dysfunction of his rival party in Queens either. “I have no know way of judging that or understanding that quite frankly,” Chairman Crowley said about the Republican infighting. “They’re not in my circle, it wouldn’t be fair to make an observation about that.”
Mr. Koo said that the tone of the national Republican contest impacted his decision as well, “especially on immigrant issues.” He stressed that national immigration issues like the DREAM Act were very important to him. “As I said before, I’m a first generation immigrant, so I understand how hard it is to be a newcomer in this community. I always sympathize with immigrant issues.”
Regardless, Mr. Koo’s decision will probably help his reelection prospects in his heavily Democratic district. Chairman Crowley made it clear he would work to help Mr. Koo through the Democratic primary. ”We tend to support members of our party who hold public office. It’s my intention to convince leaders, many of them are here today, that Peter deserves to be reelected.” If past elections in the district are any indication, Councilman Koo could easily face a crowded Democratic primary when he runs in 2013.
The Councilman also took some time to share his thoughts on what a political party even means. “A party is a political tool the candidates use to help them win elections. If you’re a good person, the citizens, the voters should decide in their own heart who are the better candidates.”
Watch Councilman Koo and Congressman Crowley take questions below: