The Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan burst into the headlines last October when its speaker series featured Gavin McInnes, founder of the far-right group the Proud Boys.
Its members brawled with protesters after the event, leading to injuries, arrests, and widespread outrage.
"Why were the Proud Boys invited here?" City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at a news conference outside the Manhattan club after the fight.
It turns out, Ian Reilly, then the club's second-ranking officer, played a central role in organizing the event. There were calls for him to be fired from his job on then-Brooklyn State Sen. Marty Golden's campaign.
But far from being exiled for his role in the debacle, Reilly on Thursday was elected president of the Metropolitan Club, running largely as the more pro-Trump candidate.
"We're going to be pushing voters away," Republican Party Strategist J.C. Polanco said.
Polanco says he now wants nothing to do with the Metropolitan Club, noting that right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who's been widely condemned for defending pedophilia, promoted Reilly's campaign.
"Someone who has their endorsement should not be leading any Republican organization in New York City," Polanco said. "Our party needs to get away from that and be inclusive."
But in a phone interview, Reilly said, in fact, he's pushed the club to become more diverse, particularly when it comes to recruiting women.
"I'm very proud to be the first openly gay president of the Metropolitan Republican Club. I reject anything that would mark me as some sort of bigot or supremacist or anything like that," Reilly said.
Reilly says he denounces prejudice, but he would not denounce McInnes or the Proud Boys.
"I can't pre-judge people who came, and say that anything of that is in their heart," Reilly said. "Mr. McInnes, in my mind, is a satirist, a comedian. I think I've seen worse on HBO. I've heard worse. This to us was about freedom of speech."
"I would never have allowed those people to enter the club," former State Assemblyman John Ravitz said.
Ravitz was the last Manhattan Republican to win an election, way back in 2000. He says the party's move to the right is only alienating voters.
"I hope they don't continue that rhetoric," Ravitz said. "Because if they do that, we will not elect Republicans in Manhattan."
What effect this will all have on Republicans' ability to field competitive candidates won't be clear until almost two years from now, during the next major election cycle, in the fall of 2020.
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