New Year, New Party For Councilman Peter Koo | New York Daily News

City Councilman decides to switch from Republican to Democrat.

January 23, 2012 5:24 PM0 comments

New Year, New Party For Councilman Peter Koo

BY Celeste Katz

City Councilman Peter Koo officially shed his Republican skin and joined the Democratic Party on Monday.

KOO REGISTRATION.jpg Lisa L. Colangelo reports:

Koo, one of a handful of Asian-American lawmakers in New York City, said he chose Monday for symbolic reasons. Lunar New Year marks a new start, he said.

“From the beginning, I have always been a Democratic at heart,” said Koo, a wealthy Flushing businessman elected to the City Council in 2009. “The Democratic Party has done much more than the Republican Party locally.”

Surrounded by a dozen elected officials and party loyalists, Koo handed in his paperwork at the Board of Elections office in Kew Gardens.

City Comptroller John Liu, Koo’s council predecessor, welcomed him “back home.”

Koo had been mulling the idea for months while quietly meeting with party members behind closed doors.

“I think Peter Koo is a gentleman. I’m sorry he made the choice to become a Democrat,” said Phil Ragusa, chairman of the Queens GOP. “He was doing well in the Republican Party.”

Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich, who leads an opposing GOP faction in the borough, said the loss of Koo was a “tremendous blow to the party.”

“I think that there was a lot more we all could have done to keep him from switching parties,” said Ulrich. “If he was made part of the decision-making process, he might have felt differently.”

Rep. Joseph Crowley, head of the Queens Democratic Party, said he didn’t “cajole” Koo to switch sides: “We’re used to electing Democrats, not converting them,” he said.

Koo’s move to the Democrats gives that party a popular figure well known in the Flushing community. It could also help avoid another messy Democratic primary. Five Democrats competed for Liu’s open seat in 2009.

Crowley pointed out that joining the majority party in the Council also gives Koo a better shot at chairing a committee.

Koo, who was born in China, said he was anxious to “help others fulfill the American Dream.”

He was careful not to criticize the Queens Republican Party. And he said the split in their ranks was only a small factor in his decision.

When asked about their reaction to his decision, Koo said the GOP leadership was “sad,” but admitted there was “not much they could do to help me.”

Koo also said he was increasingly uncomfortable with the views of the national Republican Party.

It was unclear whether the Republicans will field a candidate for Koo’s seat in 2013. Ragusa said the organization was focused on the 2012 elections.

New Year, New Party For Councilman Peter Koo | New York Daily News