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NYT Article Stirs Up Race to Take on Grimm

An investigative article about Republican Rep. Michael Grimm (N.Y.) in today’s New York Times may expand the  Democratic field of challengers in his Staten Island-based 13th district.

The Times reported that three followers of a New York rabbi alleged that Grimm and the rabbi’s Israeli aide told them they “would find a way to accept donations that were over the legal limit, were given in cash or were given by foreigners without green cards.”

Foreigners without green cards are forbidden from giving to U.S. political campaigns and donations of more than $100 in cash are also in violation of campaign finance law.

The only Democratic candidate in the race against Grimm is Mark Murphy, a former aide to the New York City public advocate. He is seen by many state Democrats as lackluster. In an interview with Roll Call last week, he struggled to answer basic questions about his political philosophy.

That means the article about Grimm may tempt other candidates to jump into the race.

“This is terrible for Grimm, but he still has a million dollars and Murphy is a terrible candidate,” said one plugged-in New York Democratic operative. “Expect to see better candidates take a look at it.”

“This story is making people reconsider,” a Washington, D.C., Democratic operative familiar with New York politics told Roll Call today.

A big question: Will former Rep. Mike McMahon (D), whom Grimm beat in 2010, consider a rematch? Reached at his Staten Island home today, McMahon said he had “no comment.”

Other accusations against Grimm published by the Times had the whiff of a theatrical political thriller:

One follower of the rabbi said in an interview that Mr. Grimm pressed him for $20,000. The follower said Mr. Grimm instructed him to meet him “near the F.B.I. building,” in Lower Manhattan, in summer 2010 to deliver the money. The follower said he handed over $5,000 in cash in an envelope to Mr. Grimm in Mr. Grimm’s car.

Through his campaign office, Grimm released a statement slamming the newspaper and denying the allegations.

“The unsubstantiated accusations made by the Times are completely false and it’s disappointing that such a story was allowed to go forward without evidence,” he said. “I have dedicated my entire life to honorably serving this country from the U.S. Marine Corps to the FBI and have conducted myself both as a candidate and a Member of Congress by the same high standards. I will bring that same focus to continuing my work on behalf of my constituents while ensuring these allegations are shown to be the falsehoods they are.”

New York state has yet to complete its decennial redistricting process, but the 13th district is expected to retain its moderate political makeup.

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