As Congressman Michael Grimm officially resigned Monday, long-time Brooklyn Assemblyman William Colton has announced that he is seriously considering a bid for the congressional seat.
“People have been approaching me and asking me [to run],” he told us Sunday. “There is a real distrust of politics and politicians. We’ve seen an extremely low voter turnout.”
The reason for that lack of interest, Colton says, was a lack of discussion of substantive issues during the 2014 congressional race. As we’ve reported, the race between Grimm and Democrat Domenic Recchia was overshadowed by ad hominem mudslinging, charges of corruption, and botched media appearances on both sides. In the end, Grimm won 55 percent to 42 percent, with pundits predicting that he would be forced to resign when convicted of a 20-count federal tax fraud indictment for a restaurant he owned before entering politics. As many expected, Grimm changed his plea to guilty before the new year and resigned before the House of Representatives session commenced.
Though Grimm’s congressional seat covers large swaths of Southern Brooklyn, the candidates for a special election are selected by Staten Island party leaders with minimal input from this side of the Verrazano. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to call special election soon, after which the Staten Island Democratic Party will choose a nominee to take on the Republican candidate for the borough.
Colton, a Democrat who currently represents 4,000 constituents in Southern Brooklyn, said lack of funds has prevented him from entering the congressional race in the past, but in a special election it will be more feasible, since there is a shorter campaign period. Representing Staten Island in addition to Southern Brooklyn wouldn’t be much of a stretch, Colton said, because residents of both areas face many common issues.
As congressman, fighting the city’s building of toxic garbage incinerators and pursuing better recycling policies – in both boroughs – would continue to be a key issue for Colton.
“Both neighborhoods are afflicted with terrible garbage facilities. Staten island was afflicted with that landfill. Those garbage facilities created untold damage on both neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time, with these failed policies, that Staten Island finds itself afflicted again with these garbage facilities.”
In addition, Colton notes that both areas are impacted by the steep Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll, and both, after being ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, did not get sufficient funds for restorations – issues that negatively impacted many small businesses and families. Though it has been over two years since Sandy, federal funds are still “tied up in red tape and bureaucracy,” Colton said.
“It’s ironic that many families in Staten Island have come from Brooklyn, moving there for a higher quality of life, and yet we find so much neglect in these neighborhoods,” he added.
Currently, Colton says he is speaking to a number of community leaders and other Democratic contenders, including former Congressman Michael McMahon and Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick, and will make a decision based on their ideas and suggestions.
When asked who would take his place in the State Assembly, Colton suggested City Councilman Mark Treyger and District Leader Nancy Tong could be viable contenders, both of whom support his bid.
State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan have expressed interest in running on the Republican ticket.