No sooner had embattled Rep. Michael Grimm (R.-New York) announced his resignation from Congress on Tuesday than the maneuvering for his seat commenced in both major parties as well as among New York's smaller parties.
Grimm, whose resignation takes effect on Monday, had pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud Dec. 24 as part of an arrangement for dismissal of the remaining charges of a 20-count federal indictment. Although the congressman insisted he would "absolutely not" resign from office before his expected sentencing, pressure was mounting among politicians in New York's 11th District (Staten Island-Brooklyn) for Grimm to go.
Under Empire State election law, should a vacancy in Congress occur, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo can declare a special election be held from 70 to 80 days following his proclamation of said vacancy. The special election will cost taxpayers an estimated $1 million.
Republicans are likely to choose their nominee by a weighted vote of members of the party's county committees (Richmond County, which is Staten Island, and Kings County, which is the borough of Brooklyn). Because the 11th District crosses county lines, rules of the Conservative Party (which has the third line on the New York State ballot) require the designation of a candidate by its state committee.
Within hours of Grimm's announced exodus, State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan told reporters they were "seriously interested" in a bid for Congress. Were state and national party leaders to have their way in the nomination process, the nominee would almost surely be Malliotakis, 34, the daughter of Cuban and Greek immigrants, and the lone female Republican to hold office in New York City.
But Donovan is also popular with the GOP and Conservative grassroots, and cannot be dismissed. The lawman, best known for overseeing the grand jury in the nationally watched Eric Garner case, was the losing Republican nominee for state attorney general in 2010.
Within days of Grimm’s announcement, Richmond County Republican Party Chairman John Antoniello gave his official blessing to a candidacy by Donovan.
Also mentioned for the open House seat is former six-term Rep. Vito Fossella. Supermarket chain owner and 2013 GOP mayoral hopeful John Catsimatides recently boosted a bid by Fossella on his radio program.
Although they have only held the 11th District for two of the last 30 years, Democrats are likely to wage a spirited race in the special election. State Assemblyman Michael Cusick is reportedly the choice of party leaders and, having just won re-election in November, he would get a "free shot" at Congress in a special election sometime in '15. Cusick told reporters a House race is "something I won't rule out and will give strong consideration to."
Also discussed as a candidate is the last Democrat to hold the 11th District seat, Michael McMahon. Considered more centrist than liberal (he voted against Obamacare in 2009), McMahon has also told the press he is considering a comeback bid.
Former City Councilman Domenic Recchia, the Democratic nominee last November and a big loser to Grimm while the incumbent was under indictment, still receives some mention. But it is a little-kept secret that Democratic leaders would definitely prefer a Cusick or a McMahon.
Developments in the 11th District are sure to proceed with quicksilver speed and the race will be the first test nationwide as to whether the Republican tidal wave of 2014 carries over to 2015.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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