Councilman Vincent Gentile is widely perceived as being the most likely Democratic contender to face off with Staten Island prosecutor Daniel Donovan for Congressman Michael Grimm’s now vacant congressional seat, reports Will Bredderman in the New York Oberserver:
Multiple sources from both parts of the district, which comprises all of Staten Island as well parts of Brooklyn, indicated that Mr. Gentile will likely be the Democratic candidate. They cited his experience representing much of the Brooklyn section of the district in the Council for the past 12 years, as well as serving as State Senator for parts of both boroughs from 1996 through 2002—and his lacking the political baggage that could be used against a Democratic Assembly member or other councilmen.
Previously, many Democrats had banked on the popular Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick, but he announced his intention not to run for the empty congressional seat earlier this week.
“After much reflection I have concluded that the best way I can continue to serve my constituents is in the New York State Assembly,” Mr. Cusick said in a statement.
Some pundits are skeptical about whether a Democratic candidate from Brooklyn, like Gentile, could actually win the 11th District – even in a special election. Staten Island leans Republican, and a candidate from Brooklyn has never won the congressional seat against a candidate from Staten Island. After all, just a few months ago the Staten Island-based Grimm won the race against Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia by a whopping 13 points despite his 20-count indictment and spending considerably less on his campaign.
But Tom Feeney, executive director of the Staten Island Democratic Party, suggested his borough’s voters should be given more credit.
“We one hundred percent believe a Brooklyn candidate can win this seat. It cannot be forgotten that our former Congressman was from Queens, and still he was elected three times,” he told the Observer. “The Staten Island voting base is more intelligent than some people give them credit for, and I believe Staten Islanders care about the issues that impact them most, and vote for the candidate they believe can deliver on those issues.”
Gentile’s office has not officially confirmed whether he will run, but said that he has plans to meet with the county chairman and committee in the near future.
“From battling against tax hikes to making sure police officers have the newest bulletproof vests, Councilman Gentile has never backed down from a fight. As a former prosecutor and an Assistant District Attorney, as a State Senator, and now as Deputy Majority Leader of the New York City Council, Gentile has been a leader in our city,” spokesman Justin Brannan said in statement. “A Brooklyn native who represented Staten Island for six years, Councilman Gentile’s strong legislative record and unrivaled constituent services operation make him a very strong contender for the congressional seat.”
As we’ve reported, Assemblyman William Colton has also expressed interest in running for the vacant congressional seat.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to call a special election, after which there will be an 80-day campaign period before elections are held. Though a special election is required in this situation, it is up to the governor’s discretion when to call it. How soon the elections are called may influence how much Donovan’s failure to indict the cop who had a role in Eric Garner’s death comes up during the race.