With Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of New York facing criminal charges, the major question on the minds of GOP leaders in his Staten Island-based 11th Congressional District is whether they will be forced to keep the embattled lawmaker as their nominee through the November election.
The same question is also dogging leaders of the Empire State's Conservative and Independence parties, who have both given their ballot lines to Grimm. New York is one of five states where candidates can appear on more than one ballot line and have the votes cast on all lines counted together for them.
Grimm was arrested and indicted Monday on 20 counts of mail and wire fraud and various other charges relating to a Manhattan restaurant he owned, including under-reporting more than $1 million of his restaurant sales and wages.
He has also been probed regarding possible campaign finance violations in his 2010 election bid.
The indictment is expected to lead to a trial this year. It is unclear whether the trial will be over by the November election.
Grimm gained notoriety when he was caught on tape after President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech in January when he threatened to throw a reporter off the Capitol's balcony.
For some political reporters, the Grimm scenario rekindled memories of the 2008 trial of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska on corruption charges. The trial went on as the senator was seeking re-election and ended in a guilty verdict days before the election, which Stevens lost by a hair to Democrat Mark Begich.
A year later, the verdict against Stevens was dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct by federal prosecutors. Stevens died in a plane crash in August 2010.
"Leaving aside the merits of the case involving Congressman Grimm, the problem I have with it is timing," New York Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told Newsmax. "This investigation has been going on for two years, and the [U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn] waited until after the last date possible for anyone else to get into the race."
Under New York election law, the last day to file petitions for the June 24 primary was April 10; the last day for a candidate who has filed to decline to run was April 14. The last day for someone else to file if a candidate did decline was April 24.
Kings County (Brooklyn) Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar seconded Long's view. Kassar told Newsmax that "the indictment is very serious and more than a little problematic for the congressman's re-election. I'll reserve judgment on the case, but I will say that after a two-year investigation, something is very suspect with the timing of this indictment so soon after all the deadlines for the primary are up."
If Grimm remains on the November ballot he will be facing Democrat and former City Councilman Domenic Recchia of Brooklyn, a close ally of New York's left-wing Mayor Bill de Blasio. The 11th District includes part of Brooklyn in addition to Staten Island.
Should he decide to abandon the race after the primary, Grimm would be required by state law to be named a state judge (out of the question) or relocate out of the state in order to get his name off the three ballot lines on which it would appear in November.
The congressman's attorney, William McGinley, told CNN "we are disappointed by the government's decision, but hardly surprised," and that Grimm would remain in office and would be vindicated.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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