Ridge pols line up for Grimm’s old seat

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Three Brooklyn politicians are eyeing the congressional seat left vacant by tax cheat Michael Grimm, who stepped down on Jan. 5 after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge), Assemblyman Bill Colton (D–Bensonhurs­t), and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) are exploring running in the special election to represent New York’s 11th Congressional District.

The field is becoming increasingly crowded — the trio joins Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D–Staten Island), former Democratic congressman Michael McMahon, and Republican Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan as potential contenders.

Kings and Richmond county party leaders will select their candidates for the special election that would fill Grimm’s vacant seat.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not announced when the election will take place. Conservative Party chairman Mike Long told radio host and mayoral also-ran John Catsimatidis it may not come until March.

The governor could also hold the election at the same time as November’s citywide election, a move that would spare taxpayers the cost of a special election, Malliotakis said, which is estimated to cost $1 million — but that would leave the district without congressional representation for at least another eight months.

Staten Island’s Cusick and Donovan emerged as their parties’ rumored top picks in the days after Grimm announced on Dec. 30 that he would step down.

But Brooklyn politicians Malliotakis and Gentile said they have name recognition in both boroughs that could carry them to victory.

The key for Ridge candidates will be mobilizing Brooklyn’s electorate and capitalizing on connections across the narrows, Gentile said.

“If we can start out with a nice large cushion in Brooklyn, then we could draw up enough support in Staten Island that would carry the day,” he said.

Gentile said a three-term stint as a state senator representing Brooklyn and Staten Island from 1997 to 2002 positions him as a strong candidate.

Malliotakis, whose assembly district encompasses parts of Bay Ridge and much of eastern Staten Island, said she is also poised to appeal to voters on both sides of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Brooklyn state Sen. Martin Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and Malliotakis ally nonetheless threw his support behind Donovan for the seat on Jan 4.

“He’s a guy who’s been out there for a number of years, he’s done a great service for our city, for our state, and he is the one I would be supporting,” Golden told the Observer. “Nicole would have been my second-best choice. It all comes down to priority — who’s been around the longest, who’s done the most. It’s about waiting your turn.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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