Tensions between police and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are expected to dominate the race to fill the congressional seat about to be vacated by GOP Rep. Michael Grimm, Politico
As distinct from the other four New York City boroughs, Staten Island is mostly white (over 70 percent of the population), heavily Italian, blue-collar, conservative — by NYC standards— and is home to many members of the city's police force. Grimm is himself a former FBI agent. The district, which includes some Catholic-Italian areas of Brooklyn, leans Republican.
In 2012, Grimm's Eleventh District narrowly went to Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 52 to 47 percent; and in 2008 for Obama over John McCain 51 to 48 percent, according to the Almanac of American Politics. Obama easily carried NYC with 81 percent of the vote in 2012 and with 63 percent in 2008.
Tensions are high between the mayor and cops, most recently, over the choke-hold death of unarmed black Staten Island resident Eric Garner while resisting arrest. Two NYPD cops Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed execution-style by Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley in revenge for Garner's death and the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
District Attorney Dan Donovan, who handled the grand jury that opted not to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Garner case, has emerged as a front-runner for Grimm's seat.
Other Republicans who are looking at making a bid are State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Grimm ally, and State Senator Andrew Lanza, according to Republican county chairman John Antoniello, reported.
The mayor is immensely unpopular in Staten Island and Republicans plan to tie any Democrat running for the seat to de Blasio. Guy Molinari, a former Republican congressman and still a powerbroker says, "De Blasio is a double-zero. People don't like him at all anymore. He's a dead duck," Politico reported.
Among the Democrats exploring a run are former congressman Michael McMahon
, who lost re-election to Grimm in 2010 and State Assemblyman Michael Cusick.
Donovan said he is "very seriously considering the race." He would almost certainly have strong backing from police unions. Molinari is already supporting him, according to Politico.
"If the campaign comes down to the police against the left-wing protesters and the mayor then that's a conversation I think Dan Donovan would like to have," GOP strategist Steven Stites told Politico.
Staten Island Democratic chairman John Gulino says he does not believe tensions between protesters and police will have a decisive effect on the outcome, Politico reported.
Grimm resigned after pleading guilty to a federal charge of tax evasion. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to set the date for a special congressional election soon after Grimm's resignation takes effect on Jan. 5.
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