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Republicans seeing red in Brooklyn - Working to get McCain in the White House, as well as dominate local elections

Never turn your back on a Brooklyn elephant.

Although borough Democrats outnumber Republicans eight to one, members of the Kings County Republican Party are confident that, with their stalwart support, Senator John McCain will be the next president of the United States.

Everyone was sweating from McCain fever Thursday during the party’s annual Lincoln Dinner, where 450 diners vowed to make sure that the Senator from Arizona makes it to the White House and that Republicans dominate local elections here at home.

This year’s key races will be the 13th Congressional District shared by Staten Island and Bay Ridge, as well as the race for the 60th Assembly District in Bay Ridge that is currently led by Democratic Assemblymember Janele Hyer-Spencer.

Republicans are also hoping to keep Democrats at bay as they inch closer to acquiring the majority in the State Senate.

“We’re not only going to maintain, but we’re probably going to pick up three seats,” said Bay Ridge State Senator Marty Golden, the only Republican legislator in the borough. “We’re confident that McCain will do well in Brooklyn and surprise a lot of people by pulling this state into his win column.”

The keynote speaker for the dinner, held at the Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope, was former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge.

Ridge, a fellow Vietnam veteran and possible contender for Vice President on McCain’s ticket, said that the 2008 race for the White House between Senator Barack Obama and “his good friend” will be between “stylish rhetoric and a proven record.”

Speaking from experience, Ridge said one should never dismiss the idea that a “blue” state like New York could end up a sudden swing state, like his native Pennsylvania.

“When I was voted governor of Pennsylvania, there were more Democrats than Republicans,” Ridge said. “But I’ve learned that depending on the messenger and the message, there’s a lot of independent-thinking Democrats who from time to time think that the party label isn’t as important as the values they share with the candidates.”

“We never take a Democratic community for granted, especially in a race like this, which is going to be an election of distinct contrasts — from one’s philosophy to government experience, from how they approach health care and energy and how they are perceived in the global community.”

Craig Eaton, chair of the Kings County Republicans, said that Brooklyn GOP was the first club in the state to move to McCain after former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani dropped out of the race.

“I cannot make any promises to you about the future, but I can assure you that in January 2009, when John McCain is sworn in as the next President of the United States, there will be no doubt that the United States of America will continue to be and shall remain the safest and most secure country in the world,” Eaton told the throngs of diners.

Special guests of the night included Giuliani, who presented an award to Rosemarie O’Keefe for her many years of service.

Other honorees included Gristede’s Supermarket Chain CEO and 2009 Mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis; Ed Mullins, the president of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association; and Hy Singer, the former chair of the Kings County Republican Party. A posthumous honor was given to Supreme Court Justice Louis Marrero, who died just five months after retiring from a 15-year career behind a Brooklyn bench.

Eaton said that the proceeds from the dinner “will allow us to move forward with our aggressive agenda for the Brooklyn GOP.”

“We have a lot to accomplish, the first of which is to insure that we are victorious in the presidential race and all of our Congressional, State Senate and State Assembly races in November,” he said. “Once the elections are over, we will not waste any time, rolling out our plans and starting to look forward towards the 2009 races.”

“The Brooklyn GOP is on the rise. We’re going places,” Eaton said. “You’ll never be able to discount Brooklyn Republicans ever again.”

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