‘Not a shot in hell’ - Latest GOP candidate for 13th has little party backing

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In the days to come, Republican Congressional candidate Robert Straniere will be hitting the streets of Brooklyn.

But will Brooklyn GOPers be around to show him where all the great pizza places are?

Don’t ask Brooklyn GOP President Craig Eaton, who is keeping mum on the Straniere run, even though sources say that the Kings County Republican Party isn’t backing his candidacy.

“[Brooklyn GOPers] were behind [Bay Ridge resident] Paul Atanasio,” explained one Bay Ridge political insider, who wished not to be named. “But he only got 1,290 signatures.”

While Atanasio received just over the 1,250 signatures needed to get on the ballot, he wouldn’t survive a single challenge, leaving any chances for a serious campaign dead in the water, the source said.

Yet, despite this, “No one is endorsing Straniere,” the source said. “Staten Island’s going with him only because they have no one else. He has no shot in hell anyway.”

This civil war over Straniere is just another chapter in the ongoing saga over who will be the last one standing in the fight for the 13th Congressional District, which encompasses Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and all of Staten Island.

The coveted seat was left open by Republican Congressman Vito Fossella, who announced his departure from Washington, D.C., following the scandal over his “second family.”

Both Brooklyn and Staten Island Republicans initially wanted former MTA honcho Frank Powers to fill the seat, but Powers died just as his supporters began collecting petitions, leaving a mad scramble to fill the void.

After much debate, Powers’ vacancy committee threw their support behind Straniere, who was named the Staten Island GOP’s candidate last week.

As of this week, Brooklyn’s support remained up in the air.

Repeated calls to Eaton, the Kings County Republican Party chair, about who the party was supporting for the 13th CD were not returned as this paper went to press. Neither were any calls to other high profile Republicans in Bay Ridge.

Yet there are many who believe that the Kings County Republican’s support is already secured.

In a piece of correspondence Eaton leaked to the press, Dyker Heights attorney Frank Martorell, who is also a member of the Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Organization, said he was “pleased to see” that they had endorsed Bob Straniere.

“Our message is ‘Forward to Victory and Unity in November!’” he wrote.

While not that well known on the Brooklyn side of the district, Straniere’s name does resonate with Staten Island voters.

He was a Staten Island assemblyman for 24 years until Richmond County Republicans banded together to oust him from office back in 2004 in favor of Vincent Ignazio. Many of the borough’s elected officials “shunned him” during the brutal defeat, according to the New York Times.

Besides losing the Assembly, Straniere has also lost a bid for Staten Island borough president in 2001. He currently lives in Manhattan, but said that he was moving back to Staten Island soon.

Anthony Xanthakis, the vice chair of the Staten Island GOP, said they decided to support a former political outcast because of his “political experience and name recognition.”

“We felt he’d be a better candidate to take on [Democratic candidate] Mike McMahon. Bob is excited about running and taking on a tough race,” he said.

When contacted Monday and asked if he had received the support of the Brooklyn GOP, Straniere responded: “I certainly hope so.”

He added that he planned to speak with Eaton and come to the Brooklyn side of the district in the coming days.

Arnaldo Ferraro, who sat next to Straniere in the Assembly back in the 1980s and is currently the Republican District Leader in the 49th Assembly District in Bensonhurst, will be “heading up things in Brooklyn,” he said.

“We want to keep a daily presence in Brooklyn,” Straniere said. “[Brooklyn] is a very important part of the district and we want to be extraordinarily visible. I want to know all the people in the neighborhoods that the 13th District serves.”

Before being named a Republican Congressional candidate, Straniere has to best Dr. Jamshad Wyne, finance chair of the Staten Island Republicans, in a primary set for September 9.

He will then have to go up against the Democratic candidate, who will be either Staten Island City Councilman Michael McMahon or Bay Ridge attorney Stephen Harrison.

He will also have to contend with either Atanasio or Carmine Morano, who are both listed as independent party candidates, according to the Board of Elections.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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