NY-13: Fossella on the Ropes

Vito Fossella may have been able to survive his recent DWI arrest, but can he survive the upcoming sex scandal?

On the night of Fossella’s arrest, the congressman called on a “very good friend“, a former intelligence officer at the Pentagon, to pick him up from jail:

Fossella, according to a police report, said he was rushing to see his “sick daughter” and take her to the hospital. But, the Republican lawmaker, allegedly blew a 0.17 into the officer’s Breathalyzer – twice the legal limit – and was hauled off to jail.

A few hours later, Fossella called Fay to sign him out of jail.

When asked whether Fay’s 3-year-old was the same girl Fossella had to take to the hospital, his spokeswoman declined to comment.

“That is a demeaning and highly inappropriate question that does not deserve an answer,” said Susan Del Percio, a high-priced public-relations crisis consultant.

Roll Call has more:

But despite the display of normalcy in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, rumors were swirling behind the scenes that the 43-year-old Congressman might not be able to survive the spate of embarrassing headlines that have blared from New York newspapers since his arrest. […]

Privately, however, political leaders and operatives on both sides of the aisle were beginning to express doubt that Fossella can serve out the remainder of his term – let alone remain politically viable in November.

“I think the realization is beginning to sink in that he can’t last,” said one Washington, D.C., Republican. […]

[A] New York-based GOP consultant who did not want to be named said some Republican insiders have been advised not to defend Fossella too aggressively, for fear that it could hurt the party’s efforts to hold his seat if he chooses to resign or retire.

Already names are floating of possible Republican contenders for Fossella’s seat, such as state Sen. Andrew Lanza and City Councilmen James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio. All are relatively young and quite popular.

Both parties are nervously considering the possibility that a quick Fossella resignation will force a special election to replace him.

If Fossella should resign before July 1st, Gov. Paterson has the option of calling a special election, or he could leave the seat vacant until the next Congress.  But if Fossella resigns, and if Paterson calls a special election here, there would be no primary.  In what would amount to one of the biggest backroom deals in recent political memory in NYC, party leaders would designate the nominees.  And that could spell trouble for current candidates Domenic Recchia and Stephen Harrison:

Although Recchia had more cash on hand than Fossella as of March 31 – $325,000 to $248,000 – his greatest handicap may be the fact he comes from Brooklyn, while most of the Congressional district’s voters are in Staten Island. If there is a special election, it is possible that party leaders from that borough may try to tap one of their own as the nominee – though the top three Democratic elected officials on Staten Island, state Sen. Diane Savino, state Assemblyman Michael Cusick and City Councilman Michael McMahon, have all declined to run against Fossella in the past.

A Fossella resignation would be a once in a lifetime opportunity in this D+0.8 seat.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the whispers continue to intensify over the weeks ahead.

23 thoughts on “NY-13: Fossella on the Ropes”

  1. is what we need to win this district.  Harrison and Recchia both live in Brooklyn, which is overwhelmingly Democratic and makes up about a third of the district.  Recchia does not even live in the district and cannot vote for himself in the primary.  I have a hard time seeing him win unless he is running against Fossella himself, which I greatly doubt will happen.

  2. John Sweeney all over again… let’s stick ’em with yet another special election debacle!!!

  3. Diane Savino holds a crucial state senate seat in Staten Island.  To give it up potentially puts state Dems at a disadvantage as they are about to flip the senate.  It will be much easier for Republicans to hold onto Lanza’s seat should he get the nod as opposed to Dems holding Savino’s seat. Diane’s seat is north shore and Brooklyn, two parts of the district Dems are expected to carry regardless of the nominee.  The same for McMaon’s city council district.

    McMahon is term limited out of office in 2009.  Most believe he will be going after the Staten Island borough presidency.  His wife is up for a judicial position which may make him not want to split his time between NY and DC. McMahon also likes his position at his law firm and can continue that while also serving on Council and would have to give that up for a Congressional seat.

    Everything I hear about Cusick is that he would be a strong candidate, he holds a conservative mid-island seat with cross over appeal, but he dislikes campaigning.  He could be the clear favorite nominee this year or even 2006 if he wanted it and he has shied away.  

  4. The Post is saying that Republicans are talking about Councilman James Oddo and DA Dan Donovan as potential replacements.  Oddo represents the south shore of Staten Island and would be a hard conservative to go up against but it is Donovan that would prove difficult.  Donovan has run borough wide races and won as DA and seemingly is above the ethical fray that has caught Fossella.  Donovan won with 68% in 2007, a year where there were higher expectations for Dems on the ballot.  

  5. The huge news was buried in an article in the Staten Island Asvance.  When Fossella’s high-priced public relations expert was asked “she declined to offer a yes- or-no answer when asked if Fossella is the child’s father.”  And yes, the mom was childless during her marriage which ended in 2004.  Gulp.

    Fossella is continuing and perhaps accelerating his fund raising with no less than eight fund-raisers scheduled.  As the Advance put it, Vito is shaking the Money Tree.  Maybe that will provide his answer.  Meanwhile the paper notes “nominating petitions are set to hit the street on June 3” leaving the notion that more contenders will file from both sides to put added pressure on Fossella.

    Whether any of this will or should cause Fossella to a) resign or b) prematurely retire is unclear.  

  6. if we end up with a special election, it’ll be a tough break for both of these candidates. But picking someone good from Staten Island makes a lot of sense for this election.

  7. I knew Republicans were a dying breed in the North East… But man, maybe they might be willing to add themselves to the endangered species act… lol What is going on in New York… One of the FEW repubilcan seats not considered originally to be particularly competitive is now looking like it might be. lol Republicans in Texas had to cheat to eliminate democratic districts there… Democrats in the NE just have to leave them alone and let them implode on their own!

  8. so what do our NYers say?  whose most likely to win?

    i was looking at all the numbers and i couldn’t figure out why this race wasn’t moving.

  9. the problem is all these damned politicians are human and they do bad things and then they lie about them.  once we start electing robots we can stop worrying.

    as a minnesotan, i have to tell you that i like mark dayton but rumors of simply odd behavior persisted in every public service he has done.  he felt he would have a hard time winning reelection (although in ’06 he’d have had a decent shot) and he wasn’t up to it.  i think we’d all be better off if more politicians thought this way.  maybe this is what allard of CO thought.

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