Rep. Vito Fossella’s drunk-driving arrest and subsequent admission that he fathered a child out of wedlock hasn’t only thrown the GOP into disarray — it’s apparently done the same thing to Democrats trying to pick a challenger to take on the disgraced congressman.
On Thursday — the same day that Fossella admitted his love child — congressional hopeful Steve Harrison expected to easily win an endorsement from Brooklyn Democrats for Change.
It would have been the latest in a string endorsements, complementing a fundraising run that Harrison says netted more cash than he spent on his entire 2006 campaign, when he snagged a surprising 43 percent of the vote from Fossella without support from the national Democratic party.
But the Bay Ridge lefties made Harrison’s hoped-for smooth ride to the Democratic nomination a whole lot rockier when the club’s members couldn’t choose between Harrison and Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island). The endorsement vote, which filled a recycled Utz potato chip box, ended up as a 25–25 tie.
Club members said Harrison was the favorite before the Fossella scandal, but now that the seat is so eminently winnable, the club is hunting around for a candidate with a better chance of winning, especially if Fossella opts out of re-election and a stronger GOP candidate emerges.
“[Harrison] can’t win the seat,” said club member Bob Healy. “Number one, he’s not Italian. Number two, he has no money. And number three he’s not the best candidate.”
Recchia — who didn’t attend the endorsement meeting — has $325,175 cash in hand compared to Harrison’s $91,131, according to Federal Election Commission records logged at the end of March.
But Harrison, who looked on as club members twice recounted the votes, says he has raised about $160,000 — $30,000 more than he spent on his entire 2006 campaign.
“Does [Recchia] have a few dollars more? Sure. But what’s he doing with it?” Harrison asked. “The simple fact is, he doesn’t have what it takes to win the district, and his votes on a number of Council resolutions mirror those of Republicans.”
Recchia did not return a call.
National Democratic officials say that Fossella’s confession convinced them that the seat — which is in a traditionally conservative district — could be won. So now the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying attention (and money) — things it did not do in 2006.
“Right now, this seat is ripe for the taking,” said DCCC spokeswoman Carrie James. “The district has been turning Democratic and we’re confident that that it will keep going that way.”