BY HELEN KLEIN, JOHN ALEXANDER, JAIME DEJESUS & MEAGHAN MCGOLDRICK
Michael Grimm’s dream of a comeback has crashed and burned.
The former congressmember, who tried to jump-start his political career after pleading guilty to a single count of tax fraud and spending seven months of an eight-month sentence behind bars, didn’t even come close in his attempt to win back his old seat, losing his bid by nearly a two-to-one margin.
Grimm had challenged his successor, current Rep. Dan Donovan, for the Republican nomination in the 11th C.D. which encompasses all of Staten Island and a swath of southwest Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Gravesend, and for a long time, held a significant lead in the polls.
But, when voters came out on Tuesday, June 26, they resoundingly rejected his bid. With 489 of 489 precincts counted, unofficial results had Donovan with 63.9 percent of the vote (12,774), while Grimm had just 36.1 percent of the ballots cast (7,219).
Donovan’s success was cheered by some 300 supporters, who came to the Vanderbilt on Staten Island to be there for the moment they had been waiting for, which came at 9:28 p.m., when Donovan was declared the winner. To loud shouts of “Dan, Dan, Dan,” the jubilant crowd reveled in Donovan’s hard fought victory.
Donovan — the former Staten Island district attorney who initially won the congressional seat in a special election in May, 2015 and was re-elected in 2016 — even outperformed a Remington Research Group poll released four days prior to the primary, which showed him with a seven percent edge, a turnaround that came after his endorsement by President Donald Trump on May 30.
While Donovan voted against the president’s tax cut package, in recent months he has sent out frequent press releases praising Trump’s actions, policies and positions, including one in which he trumpeted his support for $10 billion in funding for Trump’s border wall, and another marking Trump’s 500th day in office, in which he said, “Everywhere you look, America is winning again under President Trump’s leadership….President Trump has kept promise after promise, and I’m continuing to work with him and my colleagues to keep the wins coming.”
And, he thanked Trump, “who,” he said, “had the confidence in me to be the lone Republican voice in New York City and stuck his neck out and told the world why he wanted me to be there in Washington with him,” as well as his long list of supporters, telling the cheering crowd, “I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to do it again and make sure we beat the Democratic candidate in November and keep the only Republican seat in New York City Republican.”
Grimm’s supporters — gathered at the Staten Island Hilton Garden Inn — were all ready for a party, but they didn’t get it, though the DJ kept spinning the tunes including, at one point, “Highway to Hell.” Grimm himself was controlled, almost jovial, as he greeted the faithful, who had waited for him in the anything-but-festive ballroom reserved for what was supposed to be a victory bash.
As it turned out, the bad news quickly became clear, and Grimm conceded at around 9:40 p.m. “This isn’t what we expected but you know what? We makes plans and God laughs at us,” Grimm told supporters. “When one door closes, another door opens. I want to thank not just the people standing behind me who worked very hard but to all of my volunteers and supporters. You’re the best people in the world and the salt of the earth. I couldn’t be more proud of you today. Don’t worry. This is just the beginning for Michael Grimm.”
Grimm — who said it was critical to keep the House Republican in order to proceed with Trump’s agenda “to make America great again” — urged his supporters to shift their support to Donovan. “It’s extremely important that we keep this seat Republican,” he said. “In all of New York City, the Staten Island-Brooklyn seat is the only seat that has a Republican voice. I know it’s hard when you’re in the heat of battle to embrace your opponent, but our opponent in this primary was never our enemy, so we’re going to support the Republican nominee Dan Donovan and make sure we beat the Democrats in November.”
On the other side of the aisle, Max Rose easily cruised to victory in a crowded field of aspirants for the Democratic nomination to run for the seat. With 489 of 489 precincts reporting, unofficial results had Rose with 64.7 percent of the vote (10,712). Coming in second was Michael DeVito, who snagged 19 percent of the vote (3,150). The other candidates — Omar Vaid, Radhakrishna Mohan, Paul Sperling and Zach Emig — had 8.7 percent (1,441), 3.9 percent (647), 2.4 percent (392) and 1.3 percent (216) respectively.
Rose — who is getting support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which has targeted the race in the 11th C.D. as part of its Red-to-Blue campaign — promised in his victory speech to, “Take this thing all the way to November.
“Since day one we’ve run this campaign on rebuilding trust, and that’s what got us here – and what will take us to victory in November,” he said, thanking family, friends and the more than handful of organizations — among them, he stressed, Planned Parenthood — that had backed him in the primary, as well as moving forward.
“These past 11 months,” he told supporters, “have only reinforced a very simple truth, and that is that we’re either getting screwed over or we’re getting ripped off. This is my home and I’m sick of it.”
Rose, who celebrated his victory in Staten Island’s Liberty Tavern, in a backyard festooned with American flag lanterns and backdropped by a mural of the Statue of Liberty — vowed to support a fix for the R train should he be elected, as well as to tackle the opioid epidemic and prioritize school safety. “Dan Donovan is not going to fix this,” he said. “He’s not in the community. He does not show up when it counts.”
He was answered with mirroring cheers of “Max, Max, Max.”
Turnout was painfully low for the primary. Congressional districts each have a population of approximately 711,000 people. As of 2012, there were 106,875 registered Republicans in the 11th C.D. and 190,422 registered Democrats. The Conservative Party, the third party to hold a primary on the 26th [between Grimm and Donovan] had 5,628 registered voters in 2012.