Republican Wins Money Race in New York Special

Grimm resigned from Congress earlier this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call).
Grimm resigned from Congress earlier this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call).
Posted April 24, 2015 at 11:53am

Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan walloped his Democratic opponent in fundraising for the special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Michael G. Grimm, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday.  

Donovan reported raising $615,000 between Jan. 1 and April 15 and had $462,000 in cash on hand for the final weeks of the May 5 special . New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile brought in $196,000 over the same time period and reported $116,000 in the bank.  

The Staten Island-based 11th District is competitive territory as drawn, but it’s eluded Democrats since Grimm rode a GOP wave to election in 2010. President Barack Obama carried it by a 4-point margin, making it the kind of seat Democrats need for a House majority.  

Democrats made a hard play for the seat in 2014, spending millions against Grimm, who at the time faced federal indictment . Grimm skated to re-election against a weak Democratic opponent, but he pled guilty to multiple counts of tax fraud shortly thereafter and resigned in disgrace on Jan. 5.  

Republicans were quick to rally around Donovan, who had made national news when he failed to convince a grand jury to indict a police officer accused of choking an unarmed black man to death outside a convenience store in Staten Island.  

Democrats had a harder time recruiting. The low turnout expected in the contest, plus the drag from unpopular Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, led a number of top prospects to pass on the race .  

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not spent any significant funds to put the seat in play, and Donovan is expected to easily win the special in two weeks.  

“It’s the math,” former DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., told CQ Roll Call this week of why Democrats aren’t likely to win the special. “I’ve always argued that is one of the quirkiest districts in America. A Democrat can win it in a presidential, it’s harder in a midterm, and it’s almost impossible in a special within a midterm.”  

Democrats say they will target the seat again in November 2016, when Hillary Rodham Clinton will likely top the ticket as the party’s presidential nominee.  

“I think people are thinking realistically about November, especially if Hillary Clinton is running for president,” Israel added, though he declined to comment on potential candidates. “I think that there’s a wind behind the backs of Democrats in 2016.”  

Republicans question whether Democrats will be able to oust Donovan in a year and a half, when he’s up for re-election in 2016.  

“It’s sort of a bizarre strategy to spend $5 million against a guy who’s indicted and come up real short, and then sit out the next race and think you can make it up with a different turnout model a year later,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., told CQ Roll Call this week. “They had a terrible time recruiting and they ended up in a position where they don’t end up spending any money. And that’s fine with me.”  

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