The death of Frank Powers, who was briefly the Republican standard bearer to succeed disgraced Rep. Vito Fossella, has thrown the race for the Staten Island–Bay Ridge congressional seat into its natural state: turmoil.
For the second time this month, Republican leaders on both sides of the Narrows are scrambling to find a candidate to defend the city’s only GOP congressional district during an election cycle that is favoring Democrats nationwide.
“We’re still in flux,” said Craig Eaton, chairman of the Kings County Republican organization.
Powers, who died Sunday in his Staten Island home from an apparent heart attack, had been selected by GOP leaders in both counties only after a series of higher-profile Republican officeholders had openly declined the invitation to seek the seat, which Fossella abandoned in the wake of his drunk-driving arrest and subsequent admission that he had fathered a child out of wedlock.
Powers, a GOP fundraiser for years, jumped into the breach, vowing to spend $500,000 of his own money to deny Democrats the seat.
Powers, born in Park Slope and raised in Bay Ridge, was a retired Wall Street executive and a current board member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but he never ran for public office before.
His campaign had barely gotten off the ground before it became the object of bewilderment when his son, Francis M. Powers, announced his own candidacy for the same seat — as a Libertarian. A Powers-Powers battle was averted when the Libertarian Party nominated someone else.
Then, in one of his only public positions since becoming the presumptive candidate, he took the publicly unpopular position of fighting to retain the free EZ Pass he and other MTA board members get.
“There’s noting illegal about what we’re doing,” Powers told The Brooklyn Paper in one of his last interviews.
“I don’t particularly ride mass transit that much myself,” he admitted in the same interview.