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New York: Fossella Stays Mum, But Jockeying for Seat Starts

While scandal-plagued Rep. Vito Fossella (R) continued to keep mum about his political future Wednesday, Staten Island Republicans are looking ahead to Wednesday. That’s when borough GOP leaders are set to meet to consider endorsements for the upcoming election — and when Fossella will presumably let them know if he plans to run again.

Fossella was arrested on drunken-driving charges in the wee hours of May 1 and since then has had to endure a nightmarish series of revelations about his personal life. But despite the desire of beleaguered House GOP leaders for some signal from Fossella that he plans to step down or at least retire, some Republicans in New York believe the 43-year-old Congressman is trying to gauge whether he has any chance of winning re-election this fall.

Even before the scandal unfolded, Democrats were hoping to target Fossella in November. Just who the Republicans would run if Fossella doesn’t could depend on whether there is a special election — which the governor could call if the Congressman steps down before July 1, and which could put the GOP at a disadvantage — or a regular election.

For now, the names mentioned most often are those of Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan (R) and state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R). City Councilman James Oddo (R), who has also been mentioned for the seat, said earlier this week that he prefers to run for borough president in 2009.

On the Democratic side, New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia and attorney Stephen Harrison, the 2006 nominee, are already running. But the field could change, particularly if Fossella decides to move on.

State Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr. (D) told The Daily News on Wednesday that he is now considering running for Congress.

“Vito just doesn’t represent the district.”

But Abbate, a longtime aide to former Rep. Stephen Solarz (D), has one big handicap: Like Recchia and Harrison, he lives in Brooklyn, and about 80 percent of the district’s voters live on Staten Island.

Thus far, none of Staten Island’s leading Democrats, state Sen. Diane Savino, Assemblyman Michael Cusick or City Councilman Michael McMahon, has shown any inclination to run for Fossella’s seat.

— Josh Kurtz

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