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After losing primary race, George Grasso back on campaign trail in third-party bid for Queens district attorney

Sep. 29, 2023 By Bill Parry

The Breezy Point Republican who nearly shocked the Queens Democratic establishment in 2022, threw his support behind a third-party candidate for Queens District Attorney.

Thomas Sullivan, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, who came within 15 votes of upsetting incumbent Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, eschewed the GOP candidate Michael Mossa of Howard Beach and endorsed retired Judge George Grasso in his bid to unseat Queens DA Melinda Katz in the Nov. 7 general election.

“Our public safety crisis has now become a public health crisis. Our current politicians are responsible for a man-made crime wave. To undo this and bring our city back from the brink, we need someone with unparalleled qualifications and experience,” Sullivan said. “Judge Grasso is the person Queens needs in this critical time. We must look past traditional party lines and elect a strong independent candidate with a proven track record who can get the job done.”

Sullivan has already filed to make another run for Pheffer Amato’s seat next year.

Grasso framed the Sullivan endorsement as “bipartisan support and a commitment to public safety in the Rockaways.”

Grasso stepped down as administrative judge of Queens Supreme Court in August 2022 with two years remaining on his term in order to challenge Queens DA Melinda Katz, who cruised to victory with more than 70% of the vote in the Democratic primary in June.

When she cruised to a landslide victory in the Democratic primary in June, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz warned her supporters that Grasso would be back as a third-party candidate in November. Photo by John Schilling

Grasso took the summer off, but returned to the campaign trail after Labor Day courting Democratic, Republican and Independent voters, running on the Public Safety line.

“I am proud to be garnering such significant support from both Democrat and Republican community leaders in Queens,” Grasso said. “Tom Sullivan is a proven leader, having served our country and risked his life in combat tours in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He is also a small business owner. His strong support of my campaign for Queens District Attorney is humbling. I look forward to supporting him in his Assembly campaign and working together once we are both elected to bring back public safety and quality of life to our neighborhoods.”

In speech to civic groups like his hometown Douglaston Civic Association, Grasso blames low voter turnout for his disappointing second place finish in the primary, just 170 votes ahead of third-place finisher Devian Daniels, a public defender from Southeast Queens.

A Katz campaign spokesman dismissed Grasso’s third-party run in the general election.

“Honestly, after getting embarrassed in the primary and then announcing he was taking the summer off, it’s hard to take our opponent seriously because that’s just not what serious candidates do,” the spokesman said.

Grasso tells the Douglaston Civic Association that they would have a better voice in the fight against crime if he were elected as Queens DA. Photo courtesy of Grasso’s campaign

Before Grasso joined the judiciary he served more than three decades in the NYPD starting as a beat cop in the 113th Precinct in Jamaica and rising through the ranks to first deputy commissioner.

During his speech to the Douglaston Civic Association, Grasso warned that major felony crimes in Queens Borough North are up more than 60% over the past two years and that week-to-week CompStat data “misses the big picture.” He also announced his plan to give the public a greater voice in the fight against crime, if he were to succeed Katz as Queens District Attorney.

“We’re going to turn Queens into five sectors: northeast Queens, northwest Queens, southeast Queens, southwest Queens and the Rockaways,” Grasso said. “And what we’re going to do is create community action panels with clergy, we’re going to bring in the merchants — you know, the folks that are getting killed by shoplifting — and we’re going to bring in the civics to sit down with the NYPD hierarchy and the precinct commanders and we’ll ask you what’s the plan?” Grasso said. “What do you want? You want shoplifting? You want fare evasion? Do you want drug dealers locked up? Then you let me know and I will tell the police department because I’m the chief law enforcement officer in Queens.”

But he added that to defeat an incumbent as a third-party candidate, he knows a better voter turnout in Queens is necessary. Better than the low voter turnout he witnesses in June.

“We had less than 8% turnout. Of the 800,000 registered Democrats in Queens only about 70,000 total votes were cast for district attorney,” Grasso said. “This is about our community, our city, our neighborhood. I’m going to say it straight up. If you are a registered voter in Queens and you don’t care enough to vote in the race for district attorney, in my opinion, you have forfeited the right to complain.”

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