BY HELEN KLEIN & ANNA SPIVAK
The vacancy in Washington has finally been filled.
Republican Dan Donovan was the winner in a May 5 special election to replace disgraced former Congressmember Michael Grimm, who resigned in January after pleading guilty to tax evasion in December.
To win the post representing the 11th Congressional District (which encompasses all of Staten Island and a swathe of southwestern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Gravesend), Donovan – who had served as Staten Island district attorney since 2004 – defeated Democratic City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, a Brooklynite, and Green Party candidate James Lane.
At a little after 10 p.m., Donovan claimed victory at Staten Island’s Hilton Garden Inn, entering the crowded room as “We are the Champions” played and partygoers — including many families with young children, even at that late hour — went wild.
“Tonight is not just a victory for my campaign, but a victory for America,” Donovan told his jubilant supporters. “The hard-working men and women of the middle class spoke loud and clear. You sent a message to President Obama, to Nancy Pelosi, and yes even to Bill de Blasio, that their policies are wrong for our nation, they’re wrong for the city, and they’re wrong for the community of the 11th Congressional District.
“When I began this campaign,” he continued, “I said the harmful policies coming out Washington are threatening the American dream. I felt it to be true but I had no idea how many of our friends and neighbors felt the same way. I promise you I will go to Washington to represent you. Not the lobbyists, not the party bosses, you and your family.”
Across the Narrows, at Dyker Heights’ Stars & Stripes Democratic Club, Gentile told supporters he had lost just after 9:30 p.m., thanking them and promising to continue the good fight for the values and positions they share.
Reminding his listeners that they and he were fully aware that he had an uphill battle from the beginning, in a district that has been represented by a Staten Islander since it was created, and a Republican for all except one two-year period, Gentile stressed, “We began this campaign with the theme of creating a fresh start, hitting the reset button and ushering in a new future marked by hope and opportunity.”
The election, he added, was “not about two people or two candidates. It was about two distinctly different visions for the district, the city, the state and the country. Win or lose, we know the country succeeds when everyone plays by the same rules and gets a fair shot. I will continue to fight for the basic human rights of all. All lives matter, not just some lives. I will fight on because I am a Democrat, because I am a patriot, because I believe in our core principles and purposes. I relish the challenge of making things just a little bit better for hard-working Americans. We live to fight another day.”
In an election characterized by low turnout, Donovan scored 58.9 percent of the vote (23,409 votes), compared to 39.77 percent (15,808) for Gentile and 1.33 percent (527) for Lane, according to unofficial tallies provided by the New York City Board of Elections. In the November, 2014 election in which Grimm faced Brooklyn Democrat Domenic Recchia, over 110,000 voters cast ballots.
While Donovan handily won Staten Island, which represents some 70 percent of the district, carrying it by a nearly two to one margin, Gentile garnered far more votes on the considerably smaller Brooklyn side of the district, according to the BOE’s unofficial results, with 5,472, compared to 3,360 for Donovan.
Congressional districts each contain approximately 700,000 people.