Disgraced and retired — but apparently still beloved — Rep. Vito Fossella may have been fresh from his sentencing last week in Virginia to five days in jail for drunk driving, but he was hailed on Staten Island on Sunday in what looked a lot more like a political comeback than a send-off.
Despite the scandal of his drunk driving arrest in May and subsequent admission that he fathered an out-of-wedlock daughter, 1,000 supporters, including Mayor Bloomberg, flocked to a brunch paid for by the legislator in the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island and fueled intrigue that he was not bowing out forever (Politicrasher, I must admit, did not live up to his name — look, it’s a long way to Staten Island — but he did delve into the story in the old-fashioned way: hitting the phones).
“Whether intentionally or unintentionally, [Fossella is] leaving the door open,” said Councilman Jim Oddo (R–Bensonhurst), a longtime fan of the five-full-term congressman, told The Politcrasher. “Frankly he should [leave the door open].”
Oddo said he doesn’t think the lone Republican in the city’s congressional delegation — well, for less than one more month, that is — has charted his next move.
“I don’t think there’s a plan in place,” Oddo said.
The audience, which included Fossella’s family and other local officials, gave standing ovations to their fallen hero and cheered “Vito! Vito! Vito!”
Not seen in the crowd were several other pieces of Fossella’s life: his wife, his wedding band, his mistress or his lovechild.
Glib pols portrayed their colleague with terms that evoked other heroes, including a great redeemer (Jesus Christ), a great leader who also enjoyed extra-marital attentions (Benjamin Franklin) and a fictional scrapper (Rocky Balboa).
Officially, Fossella said the event was merely his chance to thank his backers before he leaves office on Jan. 3, but supporters used the coffee-and-bagel bash to implore Fossella to run again to represent Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Staten Island as he has since 1997.
Democrat Mike McMahon won the seat in November, largely on the heels of the scandal and also on the GOP’s inability to find a suitable candidate.
That could make Fossella a shoo-in for the GOP nomination next time, but he tried to tamp down on speculation that he’d be back.
“I have no plans to run, no plans whatsoever,” Fossella uttered to reporters after the midday gathering.
Of course, plans can change.
And if they do, the controversy that foiled his career will be dragged back into the spotlight. Here’s the fun stuff that would be thrown up against the wall again, if Fossella puts his gorgeous hair back in the ring:
After midnight on May 1, Virginia police busted Fossella for running a red light. According to an officer at who testified at his trial, Fossella was so intoxicated he could not recite the alphabet correctly and was too wobbly to stand on one leg.
Later that month, intense scrutiny forced Fossella, a “conservative” Republican and married father of three Staten Island children, to admit that not only was he in a secret extramarital affair with a Virginia woman, but that relationship produced a daughter.
It also later turned out that Fossella romanced the woman, an Air Force lieutenant named Laura Fay, on a taxpayer-financed junket to Europe, the Daily News reported.
To paraphrase L.L. Cool J, I don’t call that a comeback.