Staten Island

Ms. Malliotakis Goes to Washington

From today’s Morning Memo:

GOP leaders in NY-11 may be coalescing behind Staten Island DA Dan Donovan to run in the yet-to-be-called special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Michael Grimm, but Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel.

Malliotakis, a Staten Island Republican, traveled to Washington yesterday to meet with NRCC leaders about her potential candidacy for the lone NYC seat in the GOP’s column.

Her effort could be assisted by the fact that national party leaders reportedly aren’t thrilled by the idea of having the guy best known as the DA in the Eric Garner case as their candidate – a move that would no doubt focus the election on the sticky issues of criminal justice reform and race relations.

NY1’s Michael Scotto caught up with NRCC Chairman Greg Walden after his meeting with Malliotakis yesterday, and the Oregon Republican tried hard to maintain an air of neutrality.

Walden insisted both Donovan and Malliotakis are “very fine candidates” with “different strengths” who would “represent that district very effectively here in Washington.”

“The long and short of it is that the people on Staten Island and Brooklyn will decide who the nominee is,” Walden said. “Our job is to move forward from there and hold that seat.”

“…I’m meeting with them as we do any candidates, but I know I don’t have a vote. The Republicans on Staten Island do. I am really excited about both these individuals. They both bring different talents; they both bring very strong electoral capabilities.”

Asked about the complication for Donovan’s candidacy of the Garner case, in which the grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against a white police officer for the chokehold-related death of an unarmed black man sparked protests and significant unrest in NYC, Walden said:

“I think if Republicans pick Dan Donovan then he will have an opportunity to go explain in further detail his side of the story there certainly that perhaps he hasn’t had a chance to do.”

“But the long and the short of it is we have a good opportunity to hold that seat, and I’m excited going forward.”

Malliotakis was also playing her cards close to the vest, telling Scotto that she had a “very good, pleasant, productive conversation” with Walden.

“We’ll go through the process and see where it ends up,” the assemblywoman said. “We’re not going to discuss any of the particulars of the meetings. We’re going to keep it private. We’re just talking about the landscape of the district.”

Malliotakis said she’s “encouraged” by the grassroots support she has been receiving.

Yesterday, Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton released a statement announcing that the majority of his party’s leaders had signaled support for Malliotakis’ candidacy during a recent informal meeting.

Eaton said he will wait until Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls a special election in NY-11 (something the governor has shown no signs of doing any time soon), and then convene a convention of county committee members to which all potential candidates will be invited to make their respective cases.

“I will then bind myself to their vote and deliver same at my meeting with (Staten Island GOP Chair John) Antoniello at the lawfully appointed time,” Eaton said.

“In the very end, my committee and I will support the candidate selected through this process and work diligently to ensure that he or she is victorious in the election.”

But the reality is that Brooklyn will have a very small say in the candidate selection process, since only a sliver of the borough in included in the district, which contains all of Staten Island.

Antoniello has announced his support for Donovan. But Malliotakis said she’s hopeful Staten Island GOP officials will follow the lead of their counterparts in Brooklyn and hold a convention to select a candidate.

“All we’re asking for is an open and transparent process where the rank-and-file members can be heard, she said.

While the Republicans are holding a very public battle over who they’ll select to run in Grimm’s stead, the Democrats have been fairly quiet.

The potential candidates getting mentioned most on that side include former Rep. Michael McMahon, whom Grimm defeated in 2010, and Assemblyman Michael Cusick.

Donovan Wants To Release More Info On Grand Jury Indictment

In a lengthy statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan said he was seeking permission to release more information on the grand jury’s investigation into the death of Eric Garner.

The jury today returned no indictment in the case against a police officer who held Garner in a choke hold as he was being arrested for selling loose cigarettes.

In his statement Donovan said he was “seeking authorization to publicly release specific information in connection with this grand jury investigation.”

However, due to the court considering that authorization, he cannot reveal more information on the specific Garner proceedings.

“That application is under consideration by the court, and I am therefore constrained by New York law to reveal nothing further regarding these proceedings.”

Here is his full statement:

The Matter of the Investigation Into the Death of Eric Garner by Nick Reisman

Staten Island Dem Chair Slams Grimm For Backing Boehner

Staten Island Democratic Party Chairman John Gulino slammed Rep. Michael Grimm for his support yesterday of House Speaker John Boehner in his successful bid in retaining his leadership post for another two years after what Gulino called the Hurricane Sandy aid legislation debacle.”

Grimm, a Republican whose Staten Island/Brooklyn district sustained significant damage during the storm, initially expressed outrage after learning that Boehner had decided to adjourn earlier this week without allowing a vote on the $60.4 billion Sandy disaster aid bill sent to Congress by President Obama and approved by the US Senate between Christmas and New Year’s.

In his Wednesday night floor speech, which appears below, Grimm used words like “betrayal” and “error in judgement” to describe Boehner’s decision, and suggested in subsequent interviews that he would abstain during yesterday’s speakership vote.

But Grimm changed his tune after Boehner said he would allow a vote today on $9.7 billion worth of federal disaster aid (the measure passed 354 to to 67 with overwhelming bipartisan support and is expected to be approved by the Senate later) and pledged a vote on the remaining $51 billion later this month.

That did not sit well with Gulino, who issused the following statement:

“Speaker Boehner put politics before helping Staten Islanders when he prevented a vote on legislation to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Congressman Grimm rightfully said he wouldn’t vote for the Speaker only to change his mind so fast it gave most people whiplash.”

“This vote is an outrage. The Congressman should have demonstrated courage and leadership, instead he showed loyalty to a man who dismissed the needs of Staten Islanders as if we weren’t suffering. The one time the Congressman could have showed leadership he didn’t and in the process abandoned his constituents. Every Staten Islander must remember this vote and hold the Congressman accountable for this vote and I have no doubt they will.”

Grimm was not alone in his rapid about-face on Boehner. Long Island Rep. Pete King, the senior GOP member of the New York delegation, actually was far more outspoken in his criticism of Boehner in multiple media interviews after the Sandy vote was delayed. He even went so far as to call for residents of Sandy-impacted states to cease contributing to the NRCC, saying they would be crazy to do so.

That didn’t sit too well with the speaker, who reportedly called King “an unprintable name” when he showed up for conference. (The word in question as “a–hole,” and King was actually far from offended, calling it an “icebreaker”).

But King also supporter Boehner in the end, saying:

“What’s done is done. The fact is, when the money was on the line yesterday, when the decision had to be made, John Boehner made the right decision. John Boehner agreed to put it all on the calendar. If we’re going to carry grudges for the rest of our lives, we’ll never get anything done.”


Almost-NYC Mayoral Candidate Lhota Woos Staten Island GOP Chairman

Technically speaking, Staten Island’s Robert Scamardella is the only one of the five NYC GOP county chairs still up for grabs in the upcoming mayor’s race.

Today, Scamardella met at his Staten Island law offices with the field’s newest potential contender – former MTA chairman Joe Lhota – and came away impressed, but not yet ready to issue a full-throated endorsement.

“Mr. Lhota made an exceptional case as to why he would be an effective Mayor for all New Yorkers,” the chairman said in a statement to NY1. “He surely possesses the necessary experience to lead such a diverse and intricate metropolis. I was quit impressed.”

“I specifically asked him whether he has decided to run and his answer was a weak hedge when he said, ‘I am going through the decision making process now but wouldn’t have left the MTA if I did not think I was going to be a candidate.'”

“I specifically asked Mr. Lhota about his role as MTA chairman and how it relates to Islanders sensitivity about tolls. He said that his record shows that throughout his career he has been responsive to Islanders’ needs. For example, he played a major role in the closing of the garbage dump and advocated for the major discounts Islanders get on the Verrazano Bridge. He said, ‘Staten Island has a major transportation problem that involves bridges, mass transit and traffic and must be dealt with comprehensively by the next Mayor.'”

“Mr. Lhota did not ask specifically for an endorsement and I did not give one but I invited him to meet with my executive committee and he enthusiastically agreed. I’ll be setting that up in the near future.”

Brooklyn’s Craig Eaton and Jay Savino of the Bronx favor former Bronx BP Adolfo Carrion, although Eaton, who has been championing Carrion for months, recently left the door open to switching alliances.

Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa is fan of supermarket/oil mogul John Catsimatidis. (The party’s executive vice-chairman, Vince Tabone, works for Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Group). Manhattan’s Dan Isaacs is also a Catsimatidis fan.

None of the chairs relishes the idea of a bruising GOP primary at a time when there’s a distinct possibility that City Hall will slip from the party’s hands for the first time since 1994. So, it’s highly likely that they’ll all end up on the same page, candidate-wise – and that’s likely to happen sooner rather than later, since they’re all very much aware a united front is their best hope of overcoming the Democrats’ overwhelming enrollment edge.

According to the NY Post, Lhota was also scheduled to meet today with Staten Island GOP powerbroker Guy Molinari and Isaacs.

HTC Backs Malliotakis, Rozic, Kim

The New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, which is firmly in the “progressive” camp of the state’s many labor unions, has issued a trio of Assembly endorsements – including a first-time nod for Staten Island Republican Nicole Malliotakis.

HTC political director Josh Gold said the assemblywoman, who is being challenged by Democrat John Mancuso this fall, has family ties to the union and also has made a point of voting on several priority HTC bills.

“The Hotel Trades Council is proud to endorse Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis for re-election,” Gold said. “As the daughter of a Trades Council member with over twenty years experience working in hotels, Nicole understands how to fight for our members and their families. We look forward to sending Nicole back to Albany.”

HTC doesn’t necessarily make a habit of endorsing Republicans, although it did recently back Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden, who can certainly use all the individual union support he can get after losing the backing of the 2.5-million member AFL-CIO this week.

HTC also announced support for two Democrats:

–  Ron Kim, a former aide to Assemblyman-turned-NYC Councilman Mark Weprin who’s running for the seat being vacated by Assemblywoman/NY-6 congressional candidate Grace Meng. Kim has the support of the Queens Democratic Party and is currently an associate at the Parkside Group (a consulting/lobbying firm that also has close ties to the party).

To say that Kim has his work cut out for him in this race is something of an understatement. He’s one of seven candidates vying for Meng’s seat. (Five Democrats, two Republicans). One of his opponents, Yen Chou, just landed the endorsement of the powerful UFT, which, like HTC, is known for being able to deliver a lot of boots on the ground for its preferred candidates.

– Nily Rozic, chief of staff to Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, who is running for the seat being vacated by Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who lost to Meng in the June 26 NY-6 primary and is declining to take advantage of a political calendar loophole that would enable him to seek re-election.

Rozic does not have the Queens Democratic Party’s support. That distinction belongs to Jerry Iannece. She does, however, have the backing of the Working Families Party – a frequent HTC ally – as well as the teamsters and several smaller unions. Also, there was a floor fight at the AFL-CIO this week that denied the federation’s nod to Iannece that had been recommended by the executive committee. Instead, the AFL-CIO went with “no endorsement” in this race.

Molinari: Giuliani ‘About To’ Back Former Rival Romney

Most of the New York Republican establishment has backed Mitt Romeny for president (albeit rather tepidly, in the case of some, like former Gov. George Pataki, who once harbored White House dreams himself), but there’s been one high-profile holdout: Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, who faced off against Romney during the 2008 campaign, hasn’t been terribly kind to his erstwhile opponent, calling the former Massachusetts governor a flip-flopper on national TV back in February.

Early last month, however, after Romney’s close, but still a win, victory in Ohio, Giuliani seemed to be warming up to the GOP frontrunner. At the very least, he exhibited a willingness to hold his nose and endorse Romney if he ended up clinching the GOP nomination – a sort of anyone-but-Obama move, if you will.

At the time, Giuliani stopped short of embracing Romney, but did say he could see himself “supporting any one of the Republican candidates,” adding: “(A)ll three of them would be much better for this country than President Obama, who, I think, is a disaster for our economy.”

Now comes word from Romney’s New York chair, former Staten Island BP/ex-Rep. Guy Molinari, that Giuliani is, in fact, “about to” forget any “bad blood” left over from 2008 and take the plunge into the Romney pool.

“He wants to do it for the sake of the country,” Molinari told the Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz (formerly with the NY Observer). “So he is willing to put his own feelings aside.”

Horowitz also chatted with state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, who said he’s encouraging his members to get on board with Romney, and Rep. Pete King, who is hoping New York’s primary manages to seal the deal for Romney – if not for the candidate’s sake, then for the sake of the state, which might actually matter for a change instead of serving as little more than a glorified ATM machine for candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Molinari also told Horowitz the Romney campaign doesn’t want his NY supporters talking about how strong he is in this (Democrat-dominated) neck of the woods because they don’t want the former governor to “like just a Northeast candidate.” (So much for that directive).

Molinari is counting on a very big victory for Romney in the April 24 primary here, which also happens to be the date of the primary in Rick Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania – a make-or-break contest for the former seantor.

Ex-Indy Activist Urges Ethics Investigation Of Grimm (Updated)

FORMER Independence Party activist Frank Morano (a fellow early riser) forwarded a complaint he sent to the leaders of the house Ethics Committee urging an investigation into what he called Rep. Michael Grimm’s “pattern of unethical behavior.”

UPDATE: Morano reminds me he’s no longer a member of any party. I forgot that he had a falling out with state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay in the summer 2010 and departed the fold.

Topping Morano’s list of concerns about the Staten Island Republican are allegations in this weekend’s NYT that the congressman engaged in illegal fundraising activities with the assistance of a top aide to Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto.

The aide, Israeli citizen Ofer Biton, is under investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn over accusations that he embezzled millions of dollars from the rabbi’s congregation.

Grimm has strongly rejected the NYT report, calling it “completely false,” “disappointing,” and full of “unsubstantiated accusations.”

Grimm’s fundraising is not all that bothers Morano.

He also accused the congressman of misusing official resources, noting he closed his district office and gave staffers off on Black Friday, which is not a federal holiday, and citing anecdotal reports of Grimm’s use of government staffers to do his political work and personal errands.

Morano offered no proof of those allegations, and much of what he’s asking the committee to look into seems pretty thin.

But he did back up suggestions that Grimm is violating a prohibition on giving gifts to lobbyists by citing a Staten Island Advance story about the congressman giving a Cartier watch to former Staten Island BP Guy Molinari, a retired lobbyist who is closely related to two currently registered lobbyists.

Molinari and Grimm are very close, and the former BP served as the congressman’s chief political strategist during his successful 2010 campaign.

“A Cartier watch could be valued anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000,” Morano wrote. “How did Grimm have the means to procure this watch when he didn’t have a job for a year before the election? This question merits new examination in light of all the cash Grimm is alleged to have been soliciting and receiving.”

“I’m not trying to nitpick. I understand that Molinari and Grimm are particularly close personally and politically and they have a pre-existing relationship, but many of the lobbyists that are prohibited from giving gifts to House members are no doubt close to them as well.”

After Democrat Mark Murphy announced his campaign to challenge Grimm this fall, Morano reached out to Republican-turned-Democrat John Gangemi, a former at-large NYC councilman and attorney who hails from the Brooklyn portion of the largely Staten Island district, and asked him to consider a run in NY-13, too.

Grimm Ethics Complaint

A Democratic Primary In NY-13?

Just two days after Democrat Mark Murphy announced his intention to challenge GOP Rep. Michael Grimm in NY-13 this fall, he’s facing a possible challenge of his own from inside his own party.

John Gangemi, a former at-large NYC councilman and attorney who hails from the Brooklyn portion of the largely Staten Island district, has reached out to Democratic leaders – “I”m not getting any nos” – and plans to firm up his own plan for a congressional campaign by next week.

“I have to beat Muprhy and then Grimm, take them on one at a time,” the 73-year-old Republican-turned-Democrat told me during a brief phone interview this afternoon.

“…I think the politicians from today are more astute. They are more informed and their primary concern is to have elected officials deliver. Their concerns are to satisfy the needs of their community, and when you compare me with Mr. Muprhy, or even Mr. Grimm, I have more experience.”

Gangemi said he has no particular problem with Murphy, a former aide to NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and son of a disgraced former congressman whose campaign has so far not been universally embraced by NY-13 Democrats. “I don’t even know him,” he told me.

As for Grimm, Gangemi has this to say: “I think Mr. Grimm is a fine man, but politics as usual. He votes along party lines, and we can’t do that.”

Traditionally, NY-13 candidates have hailed from Staten Island, since Brooklyn makes up just a silver of the district. As a result, Kings County constituents often complain that they feel isolated and overlooked by their Staten Island representatives. Gangemi said he views Brooklyn and Staten Island as “one and the same,” adding: “Ever since they removed the ferry and put in that bridge, everybody from Brooklyn went to Staten Island; they’re all from Brooklyn over there.”

Gangemi served just one four-year term in the Council. He ran for Civil Court judge (back when then-NYC Mayor Ed Koch ran for governor), and didn’t win. He has served as both an assistant district attorney and assistant attorney general.

Gangemi assured me he’s in “good shape,” adding: “I ride motorcycles, dirtbikes. I ride horses. I’m very active.” He was approached about a potential congressional run by Independence Party activist Frank Morano, and said he’s also considering seeking the third party line. He did not rule out running as an independent or third party candidate if he fails to get the Democratic nod or beat Murphy.

As for fundraising, Gangemi said he hasn’t raised a dime yet and is still estimating what a serious House run might cost. He said he would be willing to spend between $50,000 and $100,000 of his own money on a campaign.

(H/T to the Politicker’s Colin Campbell, who beat me to the punch on this one).

‘Staten Island Fairy’??

Jon Stewart upped the pressure still further last night on “undecided” same-sex marriage voter Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican.

“This could take a while,” Stewart said. “Staten Island Republican, eh? I guess gay marriage rests on whether this guy is willing to be called the Staten Island fairy for the rest of his life. But you know what? It’s good news. Moving in the right direction.”