Add Dyker Heights Assemblymember Peter Abbate to the growing list of Democratic contenders considering a run against bruised but still unbowed Rep. Vito Fossella.
The long-time Albany legislator told this paper Friday that he is seriously considering a run, especially after several people have vowed their support if he makes a play for the 13th Congressional District, which spans Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge and Staten Island.
“I haven’t been talking to people about it, but people have been talking to me about it,” he said. “I have a lot of people who represent the labor movement, which makes up our teachers, firefighters – all of our hardworking residents -- and they said that they’re ready to give me their support if I decide to run.”
Since he hasn’t officially made up his mind, Abbate, a 22-year veteran of Albany politics, said he is currently planning his re-election campaign.
Yet that can all change in the next two weeks, when petitions start going out for both state and federal elections.
So far, nearly a half dozen Democrats are thinking of running against Fossella, who put his political future in jeopardy earlier this month by being arrested for drunk driving in Virginia. That arrest led to the stunning revelation that Fossella not only has a mistress, but a daughter out of wedlock.
Democrats rumored to be mulling over a bid for the 13th Congressional District include State Senator Diane Savino, Councilmember Michael McMahon and Assemblymember Michael Cusick. McMahon and Cusick represent Staten Island, while Savino represents both Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Political watchdogs said they would be running against two Democrats already in the running – Councilmember Domenic Recchia, who is actively fundraising, although he hasn’t officially announced his intentions to run, and Bay Ridge lawyer Steven Harrison, who lost to Fossella in 2006.
Fossella announced Tuesday that he will not be seeking re-election, claiming that he needed to “concentrate on healing the wounds that I have caused to my wife and family.”
He added that he hoped voters “will vote true to its form in November and will send a Republican representative back to Congress.”
While he calls Fossella’s second family a “personal issue,” Abbate said that the Congressman has been neglecting his constituency.
“I would read these reports and I would get so angry because what happened was personal between himself and his wife,” Abbate said. “But what’s not personal is when his constituents go to a community meeting and he’s not there to address their concerns. He always has a representative there that says he’s sorry he couldn’t make it, but that’s an insult to the people who feel that they’re not being represented.”
Abbate, whose Assembly district includes most of Fossella’s in Brooklyn, prides himself on frequently attending community meetings – something he said he hopes to continue if he runs for Congress.
“Going to community meetings – that’s just part of the job,” he said. “But I love doing it and I plan to keep on doing it either in the Assembly or in Congress, because I’ll be basically representing the same people.”
Abbate said that he won’t make a decision about his congressional bid until others rumored to run make up their minds.
“I would hope a younger person would step in,” he said. “I think as Democrats we should call a meeting and decide who should run.”
Despite the new names being circulated, those who support Harrison, who was the first to announce a run against Fossella last summer, aren’t too worried about political heavyweights taking the brass ring he’s been searching for.
“[Those now considering a run against Fossella] are nothing more than opportunists,” said Ralph Perfetto, the male Democratic District Leader for the 60th Assembly District, and longtime Harrison supporter. “We’re ready to take on all comers.”