It wasn’t a debate but a soliloquy for Republican Congressmember Michael Grimm, who romped through his allotted time at a candidate’s forum sponsored by the Bay Ridge Community Council which his opponent, former Democratic Councilmember Domenic Recchia, did not attend.
Without an opponent on stage, Grimm, who faces trial beginning in December on a 20-count federal indictment that includes charges of tax evasion and mail and wire fraud, had free rein to define the differences between himself and Recchia, who missed the forum because of a scheduling conflict, according to his campaign.
During the Tuesday, September 23 forum at Our Lady of Angels, Third Avenue and 73rd Street, Grimm positioned himself as a Reagan Republican, while characterizing Recchia as being aligned with Mayor Bill de Blasio and President Barack Obama, excoriating the latter repeatedly as a weak commander in chief with “a policy of appeasement,” while also panning the Affordable Care Act, which he characterized as “a disaster called Obamacare.”
“If you believe in the very liberal, progressive movement, then my opponent is the guy you should vote for,” he told the largely friendly crowd, among whom could be spotted many Grimm supporters. “If you believe we need to get back to the way Ronald Reagan ran this country, then I’m your man.”
Among the positions espoused by Grimm, a former Marine and former FBI agent who was first elected in 2010, was that the U.S. needs to “seal its borders,” contending that the “crisis” there has been worsened by the president’s policies.
In response to a question from the audience, Grimm said he did not support the privatization of Social Security, though he said that, in order to keep it viable for future generations, the formula needs to be changed for younger people, while remaining unchanged for those already retired or those approaching retirement age.
Grimm said he supports hydrofracking “as long as it is done safely and responsibly,” asserting that accessing natural gas in that fashion will not only help wean us off foreign sources of energy but also create jobs. In addition, Grimm said he opposes Cap and Trade, which imposes a mandatory cap on industrial emissions while allowing companies a level of flexibility in how they meet the limit.
“We need to focus on rebuilding the country and getting people back to work,” Grimm said, “and energy is the way to do it.”
Beyond broad policy remarks, Grimm contended that, despite the fact that the 13th Congressional District spans all of Staten Island before heading across the Narrows to Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend, he had been a representative for both sides of the bridge. “When I first ran,” he said, “the theme I kept hearing was that Brooklyn has a Staten Island congressman.”
That’s changed, he went on, citing among other things his successful effort to keep the National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction team based at Fort Hamilton. With a “motto” of “Nothing too big, nothing too small, people don’t say anymore they have a Staten Island congressman,” Grimm contended.
“I’ve done a lot, but there’s a lot more I am going to do,” concluded Grimm, contending, “My entire life has been an exemplary life of service.”
Contacted for comment, Recchia Communications Director Sarah Weinstein told this paper, “It’s convenient that Michael Grimm found time in his schedule for campaign events to save political skin after he’s been missing in action from his official duties, including a significant press conference on Monday regarding Sandy funds.
“We look forward to meeting Michael Grimm in our scheduled future debates, where Domenic will proudly match his record of fighting for middle class families to improve our schools and protect our city against Michael Grimm’s embarrassing and failed leadership,” Weinstein went on.