On both sides of the Narrows, as well as on both sides of the aisle, elected officials past and present are showing interest in the House of Representatives seat vacated January 5 by Michael Grimm, whose resignation followed a guilty plea on one count of felony tax evasion.
While Staten Island makes up some 70 percent of the 11th Congressional District, which also includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend, a couple of Brooklyn elected officials are also exploring a possible run even though no one from Brooklyn has ever represented the bi-borough district. In November, the Republican Grimm – though under indictment – won handily over Brooklynite Domenic Recchia, a former city councilmember, besting the Democratic challenger by some 13 percent.
Nonetheless, City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, a Democrat, is looking at the possibility of running, according to spokesperson Justin Brannan, who told this paper, “Councilman Gentile has been truly humbled by the outpouring of support he has received over the past few days and people urging him to run to fill the vacancy in the 11th Congressional District. Indeed, with over a decade serving as an assistant district attorney, many years representing Staten Island as a New York state senator, a strong legislative record and an unparalleled constituent service operation, Councilman Gentile is confident that he has a lot to offer and is giving the race much thought.”
In addition, Assemblymember William Colton, another Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed interest in running for the seat. Colton told this paper that he had been approached by numerous people encouraging him to run, noting, “They have urged me to do what I am doing in my district, bring people together to fight and speak on issues that make a difference.”
Asked if being a Brooklynite would be a disadvantage in the race, Colton said he believed that the similarities between the two portions of the district would outweigh that. “Both Staten Island and southern Brooklyn have been ignored for decades,” he contended. “That has to stop. We have to come together and fight together, and this is the right time for someone to unite southern Brooklyn and Staten Island. A lot of my decision will be, can I be that vehicle?”
Across the aisle, with a district that spans the Narrows, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican, is also interested. “I am taking a serious look at the seat,” she said. “As someone who currently represents both Brooklyn and Staten Island, I have a thorough understanding of the needs of the district. I will be discussing it with my party leaders, county committee members, my supporters and my family and will make a decision shortly,”
Other high-profile Staten Islanders whose names have been mentioned as possible successors to Grimm include Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan and State Senator Andrew Lanza. In addition, former Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, a Conservative who has run with GOP backing, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.
While, according to the Staten Island Advance, Donovan reportedly has the inside track with party officials in Staten Island, Malliotakis has been racking up support in Brooklyn, including Republican District Leaders Robert Howe and Ronnie Pawson, and Kings County Conservative Party Chair Jerry Kassar. The GOP candidate will be chosen by party officials.
On the Democratic side, Staten Islanders mentioned as possible candidates include former Congressmember Michael McMahon (who was defeated by Grimm) and Assemblymember Michael Cusick. Again, the Democratic candidate will be selected by party officials.
The special election must be called by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has not yet chosen a date for the contest.