Judge tells Cuomo to set special election date

It’s Grimm news for Governor Andrew Cuomo, as a Brooklyn-based federal judge has ordered the lagging pol to set a date for a special election to replace former Congressmember Michael Grimm, who resigned in January after pleading guilty to tax evasion.

On Tuesday, February 17, Judge Jack Weinstein, of federal Eastern District Court, ordered Cuomo to put the process in motion by Friday, February 20, saying that he would set the date himself should Cuomo continue to demur.

“The right to representation in government is the central pillar of democracy in this country,” Weinstein asserted in a written decision, adding, “Unjustified delay in filling a vacancy cannot be countenanced,”

The decision follows a lawsuit brought by Staten Island-based attorney Ronald Castorina, Jr. on behalf of the district’s voters, who, he contended in court papers, were, “Being denied their right to vote for a representative in the vacant Eleventh Congressional District of New York,” by Cuomo, who – the pleading asserted – had delayed in setting the date despite a mandate in the state constitution.

The 11th C.D. includes all of Staten Island and a swathe of southwestern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge through Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst to Gravesend.

According to state law, such a special election must take place no sooner than 70 days and no more than 80 days after the governor issues a proclamation of election.

However, more than a month after Grimm’s resignation, Cuomo has done no such thing, and numerous insiders had speculated that the governor was dragging his feet in order to avoid the costs of a special election, hoping to hold the vote for a replacement for Grimm on Election Day in November.

Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan is the likely Republican nominee; two Brooklyn representatives – Assemblymember William Colton and City Councilmember Vincent Gentile – are the front-runners for the Democratic nomination after Staten Island Assemblymember Michael Cusick said he was not interested in running.

It wouldn’t have been the first time Cuomo held off holding special elections until Election Day. Last year, he left numerous State Senate and Assembly seats vacant, including several in Brooklyn as numerous state representatives moved on, most to other posts.

Weinstein’s decision is good news, according to the People First PAC, which was created to support Donovan’s congressional bid, whose Senior Adviser Jake Menges said, “With so many important issues facing Congress, the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn deserve a voice in Washington.  People First PAC applauds Judge Weinstein for ordering Governor Cuomo to schedule an election.  We look forward to playing an integral role in this election and elections throughout New York State.”

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