Insult driven campaign may end with a vacant congressional seat
By Ahmed Ahmed
A three-way power struggle involving City Hall, Albany, and a highly contested congressional seat is fueling confusion in the national mid-term elections.
Michael Grimm the incumbent congressman representing New York’s eleventh congressional district is facing off a stern challenge from former NYC councilman Dominic Recchia with a four point lead in the polls as the bitter, insult driven campaign comes to an end.
The election has established an unlikely alliance between members of the Republican and Democratic Party.
In the past few weeks a vocal NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has vigorously campaigned on behalf of Recchia, as he hopes to put an end to the thwarting of his policies by current congressman Michael Grimm.
de Blasio and Grimm’s relationship is one of strong opposition. Both have collided on many issues ranging from Sandy relief efforts, public housing, taxes, and charter schools.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has been reluctant to endorse Recchia. Instead, Cuomo’s press office only sent a lightly worded endorsement four days before the election.
The governor visited Staten Island on the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, and was seen with Grimm, and did not meet with Recchia during his visit.
The Governor and the Mayor are known not to have the most fruitful of relationships.
Cuomo, a big supporter of charter schools has pushed through legislation in Albany that forces NYC to allow charter schools to use public buildings, which de Blasio strongly opposes.
de Blasio who ran his campaign on increasing taxes on top earning individuals in order to provide more pre-k classes for low income residents, had his taxes increase plan shot down in Albany by Cuomo, effectively ending a vital campaign promise.
For de Blasio a Recchia victory would help him achieve his goals by securing valuable federal funds, allowing him to circumvent Albany.
Recchia, the former chair of the finance commission has found himself on the defensive for a number of controversial and unpopular votes he took against Staten Islanders during his tenure, including voting to increase property taxes by nearly 20 percent on homeowners, and voting for numerous toll increases on the Verrazano Bridge.
“After 9/11 this city had to make tough decisions” said Recchia. “We did what was best, the action we took helped protect this city.”
The Recchia campaign has relied on Grimms uncertain freedom and isolation in congress as a campaign strategy. Countless television ads, and speeches have evolved into personal attacks that have labelled the race by national media as one of the most vicious in the country.
Federal prosecutors have set a February 2015 trial date for Grimm’s 20 count indictment, alleging that he knowingly misreported wages at a restaurant he owned called Healthalicious, in Manhattan. He has also been accused of lying under oath and obscuring a federal investigation into his financial practices.
The trial will fall on the start of the new congressional calendar, putting into question whether Grimm will be able to carry out his duties in Washington.
“Many members of congress take time off for a myriad of reasons” said Grimm. “If I am unable to serve my constituents I will step down.”
If Grimm resigns after a possible re-election, Governor Cuomo would have the option to either call a special election or simply leave the seat vacant for the term.
“Right now we have a congressman that is ineffective, his leadership wants nothing do with him,” said Recchia. “The people want a congress that can get something done.”