Republicans appear to have coalesced behind District Attorney Dan Donovan who will seek the congressional seat vacated by disgraced Representative Michael Grimm, who resigned on January 5 after pleading guilty last month to one count of felony tax evasion.
The other major Republican who had expressed interest in the seat, Nicole Malliotakis, who was supported by Brooklyn GOP Chair Craig Eaton and Brooklyn Conservative Party Chair Jerry Kassar, has announced her support for Donovan’s candidacy. The two candidates were interviewed over the weekend by Staten Island GOP Chair John Antoniello.
In a statement sent out on Monday, January 12, Malliotakis said, “Over the past few weeks, an overwhelming number of constituents and supporters have urged me to explore the recently vacated congressional seat representing Brooklyn and Staten Island. While I believe conventions including all members of the Brooklyn and Staten Island county committees would have provided an open nomination process, I respect the decision of Chairman Antoniello and believe it is important that we unite behind Dan Donovan’s candidacy to ensure we maintain New York City’s only Republican seat. Accordingly, I have chosen to end my exploration activities today and will not pursue the nomination process for the Conservative Party, Independence Party, or Kings County Republican Committee.”
According to the Staten Island Advance, Antoniello had said, “At the end of the day, we felt, the committee felt, overwhelmingly that Dan Donovan would make a better candidate,” following the candidate interviews.
Donovan had announced his candidacy for the seat on Friday, January 9, citing, in a statement, the “expressions of enthusiastic support from elected officials, party leaders, and residents of Staten Island and Brooklyn,” that had followed his first expressions of interest in the seat.
On the Democratic side, the roster of potential candidates includes two Staten Islanders — Michael McMahon who formerly held the seat but was defeated by Grimm and Assemblymember Michael Cusick — as well as two Brooklynites, City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who once represented a state Senate district that encompassed portions of the two boroughs, and Assemblymember William Colton, who represents Bensonhurst and Gravesend.
Political insiders believe that candidates who hail from Brooklyn start out at a disadvantage, as Staten Island represents approximately 70 percent of the district. The Republican Grimm, while facing a 20-count federal indictment, easily defeated Democrat Domenic Recchia, a former city councilmember who had represented Bensonhurst and Coney Island.
Grimm’s replacement will be chosen in a special election which has not yet been called by Governor Andrew Cuomo, but insiders have suggested that it would likely take place this spring. The candidates will be chosen by their respective parties; no primary will take place.