Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 19, 2014

New York: Grimm Drumbeat Grows Louder

New York: Grimm Drumbeat Grows Louder

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The headlines about Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) could be worse — but it would take some imagination.

For now, however, Big Apple political operatives see him weathering the storm.

The freshman Congressman for New York’s Staten Island-anchored 13th district has faced a recent barrage of terribly bad press, from the Staten Island Advance to the New York Times.

Late last month, an investigative piece in the Times reported three followers of a New York rabbi alleged that Grimm and an aide to the rabbi 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.” Grimm vehemently denied allegations that he had done anything against the law.

Last week, the Times reported on Grimm’s business dealings with a then-indicted and now-convicted felon.

Later, the Staten Island Advance noted that Grimm, a surrogate for White House hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, had been replaced as a GOP delegate to the convention.

On Friday, a Grimm staffer was arrested for allegedly hitting his teenage child in front of public safety officers. The staffer was suspended.

And then on Monday, a Times editorial called for a federal investigation into Grimm.

And Tuesday, in a small act of political theater, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a website highlighting — criminal dossier style — the allegations against the freshman Congressman.

All the allegations may eventually make for a one-term Congressman. But right now, the only Democrat in the race is Mark Murphy, a former aide to the New York City public advocate. He is not seen by Democrats as a strong candidate.

“It’s a winnable seat for the Democrats … but it’s frustrating for me to watch [Murphy],” said a knowledgeable Staten Island Democrat. “This guy’s ambition outpaces his ability.”

In an interview with Roll Call last month, Murphy had trouble articulating what, exactly, he believed in.

“The general sense is that, short of Grimm getting taken away in handcuffs a week before the election,” Murphy is going to lose, explained a New York City Democratic operative. But that doesn’t mean the field is set. “Stronger Democrats have been considering” jumping in the race, the Democratic source added.

One top contender would be former Rep. Mike McMahon, whom Grimm unseated in 2010. Messages left at his office over the past few weeks have not been returned. Reached at his Staten Island home by Roll Call last month, McMahon had no comment.

Meanwhile, Republicans watching the race have, for lack of a better word, grimly dealt with the bad press.

“To date, I haven’t seen anything that has shown [Grimm] has done anything illegal,” a longtime New York City Republican consultant said. “I think he’s pretty much OK.

“Look, the seat is the most conservative seat in the city. And I think that if he wants to be re-elected, he’s going to be re-elected unless there are criminal charges,” the source said.

For his part, Grimm does indeed want to be re-elected. Grimm spokesman Chad Kolton said in a statement that the Congressman is “going to win because voters in Staten Island and Brooklyn know he’s an effective Member of Congress who fights for them on issues they care about like creating jobs, reducing outrageous tolls, and ensuring that seniors continue to have access to high quality, affordable health care.”

But it’s a long way to November, and the political calculus may change.

“There are so many uncertainties in this thing,” the Staten Island Democrat said. “Nobody knows how it’s going to play out.”

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