Mum’s the word for lusty lawmaker Rep. Vito Fossella, as the embattled pol continues to mull his political future.
“Congressman Fossella has not made a decision yet, and will make one on his own timetable,” Susan Del Percio, Fossella’s crisis consultant said as this paper went to press.
In a matter of days, the embattled pol has gone from wunderkind to pariah.
On May 1, Fossella was busted in Virginia for driving drunk. He reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .17, twice the legal limit.
Instead of summoning an aide, he phoned a “friend,” retired Air Force Col. Laura Fay, to spring him from the clink.
Fay is the unmarried mother of a three-year-old daughter—and Fossella is the daddy, the married father of three admitted last week.
“My personal failings and imperfections have caused enormous pain to the people I love and I am truly sorry,” Fossella said after admitting to the love child last week.
Fossella, who is now reportedly lying low in a small apartment over a garage at his sister’s house in Staten Island, faces a congressional probe for possibly secreting Fay along on a taxpayer-funded junket in 2003.
Fossella’s indecision meanwhile continues to fuel a frenzy of speculation.
“It’s not a seat I thought was in jeopardy, but if you have an election with a cloud over it, that puts a different light on it,” said one GOP source.
He is now a liability to the Republican Party, the source said. “Their concern is about any further Republican erosion in Congress.”
“If he runs for reelection, he’s going to have trouble,” another GOPer added. “There are going to be a lot of people who say enough is enough.”
And if Fossella runs again, there’s no guarantee that the Conservative Party would back him.
“There are clearly going to be a lot of questions. A lot of people are very disappointed in him, though I think his government record has been very good,” said Jerry Kassar, the Brooklyn Conservative Party chair.
Overall, pundits believe that a weakened Fossella as opposition would provide Democrats with their best chance for turning New York City’s congressional delegation completely blue.
“I hope Vito resigns. It’s in the best interests of his district,” remarked Kevin Carroll, the president of Brooklyn Democrats for Change. “If Vito runs,” added Carroll, “it’s a net gain for the Democrats.”
Stephen Maresca, a Brooklyn Republican, said that recent questions about Fossella’s possible use of taxpayer money to finance jaunts could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
“I’m not saying that was the case,” Maresca remarked, “but it’s something that is probably worse politically than saying ‘I’m married and have a girlfriend who had my child.” Voters will cut you slack if you are doing a good job, if you stop short of using taxpayer money, but it may be that just doesn’t fly in the district he represents.”
With Staten Island encompassing 65 percent of the district, Fossella’s attempt to keep his seat could encourage a rush by would-be representatives from the Staten Island side of the district to secure the Democratic nomination. That, in turn, could derail the hopes of Stephen Harrison, the Brooklyn Democrat who lost to Fossella in 2006 and who has been battling City Councilmember Domenic Recchia, another Brooklynite, for the nomination this year.
Among those Dems in the mix, according to a variety of sources, are State Senator Diane Savino (who represents parts of both Brooklyn and Staten Island), Staten Island Councilmember Michael McMahon and Assemblymember Michael Cusick.
“I’m looking at it but I’m not making any commitments,” Savino said. “I’m being very careful.”
The state lawmaker said she would make a decision “sooner rather than later.”
She said if she decides to run, she would want to ensure that her Senate seat “is in safe hands.”
Savino said she felt for Fossella. “This is an awful and difficult time for the Fossella family. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” she said.
On the Republican side, as the party faithful await Fossella’s decision, potential candidates whispered about include Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan (the favorite of many Island GOPers), Staten Island State Senator Andrew Lanza, City Councilmember James Oddo (who represents parts of both Staten Island and Brooklyn), and two Brooklynites – State Senator Marty Golden and the new chair of the Kings County GOP, Craig Eaton, neither of whom commented on the possibility.
“Who would every have thought that Vito Fossella’s seat would be available and that Republicans from either side of the bridge would have the opportunity to run for it?” marveled one Republican source.
But, many of them are unlikely to make the race, insiders say. State senators from both parties are likely to be discouraged from running by their parties, because a shift in two seats would mean a shift in control at the State Senate, which could dramatically alter the state’s political landscape.
In addition, Oddo, who did not return a call for comment, is said to be focused on the borough presidency of Staten Island, as is McMahon.
With the possibility that Staten Island Dems might be seriously looking at jumping into the race, there is word from one source that Recchia may decide not to run, because he doesn’t want conflict Staten Island elected officials who hail from Staten Island and who might be interested in the seat.
According to the insider, Recchia has said he would “have to see what happens this week” before making up his mind. “It sounds like he’s not running,” said the source.
Recchia rejected the claim.
“I’m in the race and I’m a running,” he stated. “We have the most money in the race, we have momentum, and people are very excited.”
He added, “In order for us to win this, the Democrats must be united in the end.”