As had been long expected, former Democratic Councilmember Domenic Recchia will be challenging incumbent Republican Congressmember Michael Grimm, who represents all of Staten Island and a swathe of Brooklyn from the Verrazano Bridge down through Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Gravesend, and who is up for re-election in November, 2014 to represent the 11th Congressional District.
Recchia made it official at a press conference on Staten Island on Saturday, March 1 outside his mother’s home on Bancroft Avenue, and later told this paper that he believes his strong ties to Staten Island put him in a good position to take the seat from Grimm, who is running for his third term, despite the fact that since the district has included both Staten Island and portions of Brooklyn, no one from this side of the Narrows has held the seat.
With his mom, his sisters and his extended family living on Staten Island, Recchia says his ties bind him to the borough, which he has fought for, for years, even while representing Coney Island, Bensonhurst and other portions of southern Brooklyn in the City Council. “A lot of people called me the fourth councilman from Staten Island,” he noted.
But, beyond his Staten Island bona fides, Recchia says he is confident that his record of public service will pave his path to victory.
“Everything I have done in public service, from the school board to the City Council, has been based on helping people, making sure that communities get their fair share,” he asserted.
In addition, Recchia contends that it is time for a change. “Washington is broken,” Recchia said. “We need new leadership in Washington. We need someone there that is going to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Michael Grimm is part of the problem. When the government shut down, Michael Grimm voted for that. He voted for sequestration. They were going to close the first Head Start program in the country, on Staten Island, and Michael Grimm was nowhere to be found. Michael Grimm doesn’t bring home what the community needs, what I am fighting for.”
Recchia also criticized Grimm for “vot(ing) three times not to bring up [for a vote] his own flood insurance bill. Democrats tried to bring it to the floor and he voted against his own bill,” Recchia emphasized.
“The people are with me. They said they have had enough. They are tired of the side show,” Recchia asserted, noting that the “majority” of the money in his campaign war chest (over $1.2 million) “came from individuals,” which much of Grimm’s campaign funds comes from Political Action Committees, he said.
Going forward, Recchia will also be aided by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, which aims to replace Republicans with Democrats in districts the committee deems winnable, by providing additional campaign funds, as well as strategic support.
Among the issues that Recchia said he will be out front and center on are Verrazano Bridge tolls (which were recently lowered for Staten Islanders, while not for Brooklyn residents), which Recchia contends hurt not only Brooklynites who have to dig deeper to cross the bridge, but also Staten Island businesses who are losing customers from this side of the Narrows.
Recchia also said he would battle to make sure Fort Hamilton remains open if the federal government convenes a base closure commission, and would work “to get a bill to combat gun violence [by requiring background checks for people buying guns on the Internet].”
Grimm, contacted for comment, blasted Recchia. “My opponent is making a fool of himself by continuously issuing statements that are completely false,” he said. “If he has so much to offer, then why does he have to lie and distort the facts? I was on national television almost daily urging my colleagues not to shut down the government and that can’t be disputed. The president himself insisted on the sequester and it also passed the Democrat-led Senate, which my opponent fails to mention.
“As for delivering real results, who on his side of the aisle has been more productive for their district than me?” Grimm demanded. “I had the most bills passed through the House last Congress than any other freshman, as well as the most bills signed into law, all of which were bipartisan.”
In that context, Grimm cited the flood insurance reform bill that he had sponsored, passed with a bipartisan majority on Tuesday, March 4. That bill, Grimm said, “Will spare Staten Islanders and Brooklynites from a wave of foreclosures and astronomical premium hikes at a time when they are still struggling to recover from Sandy. Add to this my work in securing the $60 billion Sandy aid bill, keeping Fort Hamilton at full staff and safe from a BRAC, and bringing clean, affordable natural gas and countless energy jobs to our city, and it becomes indisputably clear who knows how to get results.”