NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

It can't be fun to be Tom Cole who, as chair of the NRCC, has the unenviable task of electing Republicans to the House of Representatives. Hell, already in 2008 he's lost 2 seats and it's not even November yet. On his watch so far this cycle, the committee has been plagued by recruiting failures, anemic fundraising and yes, every now and then, a good old fashioned bout of bad luck.

Enter NY-13's Vito Fossella, a moderate Republican representing NY-13, a D+1 district that encompasses Brooklyn and Staten Island, who until 2 weeks ago had been listed as likely to retain his seat by the Cook Political Report. And then, as Jonathan reported on Thursday, Vito got arrested.

The Politico picks up the story.

Fossella was arrested last Thursday in Virginia, with a blood alcohol level of 0.17 -- over twice the legal limit in the state. If found guilty, he would have to serve five days in jail, an outcome analysts said could present major political problems.

"The prospect of jail time would make it very hard for him to run again," said Cook Political Report House analyst David Wasserman. "The difference between serving jail time and pleading down to a lesser charge makes a huge difference in Fossella's political future."

Ah, but if only his problems stopped there. WaPo's The Sleuth:

According to May 1 police report, a copy of which was obtained by the Sleuth, Fossella told police he was on his way to pick up his sick daughter at her home in Alexandria and take her to the hospital. But the next day at a news conference, Fossella said he was driving to the suburbs in the wee hours of the morning to see friends.

Fossella was specific with the arresting officer about where he was headed. He gave a street name where he said he was picking up his daughter. That street, it turns out, is the same street where retired Lt. Col. Laura Fay lives with her three-year-old daughter. Fay, according to the New York Daily News, picked up Fossella from the police station.

The nut of Fossella's real problem here:

Fossella, who has three children with his wife, Mary Pat, changed his story a few times about why he left a Dupont Circle area bar, the Logan Tavern, and drove across the river to the Virginia suburbs.

Which is why all the buzz is that Fossella is likely to announce fairly soon that he won't run for re-election this fall.

GOP political insiders say Fossella, whose blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit when he was busted at 12:15 a.m. last Thursday, stands little chance of running for reelection at this point, and their Democratic counterparts agree. Buzz on the Hill and around town Wednesday was that Fossella would be announcing sooner rather than later that he won't seek another term in what has quickly become a hotly contested seat for embattled Republicans. Fossella was not voting in the House Wednesday.

Which puts NY-13 challenger Democrat Steve Harrison, who is among those Dem challengers who have endorsed the Responsible Plan by the way, in the spotlight. We'll have to see who the Republicans nominate in Fossella's stead of course, before we have a real sense of whether Harrison is likely to translate Fossella's troubles into a Democratic victory in November, but if nothing else, this is yet another reason why we challenge everywhere.

For more on the race check out a blog named, unsubtly, NY13 blog; Retaking NY-13 From Vito Fossella. Also, hat tip to The Albany Project for Harrison's Act Blue page link. Go throw a few bones Harrison's way if you can. Virtually overnight this race has entered, at worst, toss-up territory.

Tags: NY-13, Steve Harrison, Vito Fossella (all tags)



Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

Harrison is a very good progressive, but knowing the district I have the feeling that we need somebody from the Staten Island portion of the district in order to win it. Harrison is from the Brooklyn sliver of the district. Nothing against him, he ran the best campaign he could last year, he just has a big geographical disadvantage.

by pierredude 2008-05-07 06:34PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

I seem to remember Harrison was guilty of a major gaffe during the last campaign.  Something about the bridge tolls that Staten Island residents get really worked up over, I think.  It's kind of a weirdly drawn district.

by Steve M 2008-05-07 07:07PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

I used to live in the district and coordinated volunteers for the campaign in 2006.

It wasn't so much a gaffe in the sense of it being a mistake. It was just something that didn't play well with the older voters on the Staten Island side of the district. Harrison wanted to reintroduce two-way tolls over the Verrazano Bridge and, using high-speed EZ-Pass cross-checked with vehicle registrations, eliminate the toll for residents of both sides of the district.

For some reason that I have never been able to really get an answer for, Congress has some power over that bridge to actually make it happen, as evidenced by legislation being passed in the late 1980s to make the bridge situation the way it is now.

by kbse matt 2008-05-07 07:31PM | 0 recs
I gave Steve Harrison money in 2006

I thought what the heck, maybe another Democrat would win a seat...I knew nothing about him. I found out after the elecion that he got but never returned a questionnaire to NARAL/PROCHOICENY. That is not a good sign. When a candidate does this it indicates that they are not with us.

I am a very long time member of the board...back into the mists of time

I never though we had a shot at Vito Fossella's seat so I let it go. I didn't say much because it seemed there was no need to roil the waters in a race agaisnt the very popular Fossella.

4-6 months ago Steve Harrison was doing his donor solicitation calls and he called me.
We talked for more than an hour. He didn't know I was a member of NARAL's board.  We discused abortion rights issues....let me say NARAL is a very strong prochoice organization...we demand and get 100% in the issue areas we think are crucial to a woman's right to reproductive freedom.

Harrison may call himself prochoice in that he's not anti Roe, but on lots of other parts of the prochoice issue arena, he's not prochoice.  From minors to partial birth abortion and while it wasn't as clear, sex ed....

It is dismaying and not honest to have a candidate claim to be something he's not.  And women's reproductive freedom is an absolutely fundamental part of the prochoice agenda.

You say why hasn't anybody else noticed...maybe they never asked...maybe they were satisfied with his simple assertion.

I also know that our progressive congressman, Jerry Nadler is supporting the other candidate after speaking with Harrison.  He decided to support Dominc Recchia because Dominic is 100% prochoice and unlike Harrison very good on civil liberties issues.

by debcoop 2008-05-07 09:15PM | 0 recs
Re: I gave Steve Harrison money in 2006

This is straight from Harrison's issue page;

Steve believes in women's unrestricted reproductive freedom.  Nobody is better qualified than the involved women to make decisions concerning birth control, maintaining or terminating a pregnancy or any other matter relating to a woman's physical and mental health.  

"Abortions should be safe and rare," says Steve, "and experience shows that making them illegal does not make them safe or rare."

Steve believes the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion is through age appropriate sex education in our schools and increasing the options available to women i.e., contraception, pre-natal care, child care and nutrition programs, and adoption programs.

Steve supports funding to increase access to reproductive health care.

by jonahinnyc 2008-05-08 06:22AM | 0 recs
Re: I gave Steve Harrison money in 2006

This doesn't deal with the issues I brought up and it doesn't deal with my very lengthy conversation with him.

And every pro choice candidate supports more and better birth control.

I have been in this community for 20 years and the NY has no restrictions on abortion availability because of our strong stance.

Why didn't he return the 2006 questionnaire?  Every candidate in NY who is prochoice returns the questionnaire.  

And why did he emphaize the safe and rare part and not safe, legal and rare.  Could it be because on the issues where he's not discussing it on his website that they would be illegal under his reasoning?

by debcoop 2008-05-08 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: I gave Steve Harrison money in 2006


NARAL who supports Joe Lieberman?

Personally, I think a true progressive would tell NARAL to eff off...point to Steve Harrison.

by lutton 2008-05-08 11:16AM | 0 recs
Don't be dumb

National Naral supported Lieberman, but the state affiliate Connecticut NARAL did not.

This is New York NARAL a state affiliate.....and we have the stongest pro choice credentials around.

And this is different.....because National had low standards for being pro choice so the incimbent Lieberman met that low standard.

Harrsion does not sem to meet the strong standard...

by debcoop 2008-05-08 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

My wife is from Staten Island; her brother still lives there, and is refering to his Congressman as Vino Fossella.  LOL!

by lutton 2008-05-07 06:55PM | 0 recs

Daily News coined this with their headline and now it is a nice chronological list of the events since his arrest.

by jonahinnyc 2008-05-07 09:07PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

It has been several days since a Republican announced that he wanted to spend some more time with his family.  I get into a little funk (what with all that the Bush Administration is doing), but the ritual "I want to spend more time with my family" seems to perk me right up.

by smoker1 2008-05-07 07:07PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

Du Pont circle bar? Isn't this a gay neighborhood? Just wondering.

by DaleA 2008-05-07 07:08PM | 0 recs
DuPont vs. Logan

The bar is actually in Logan Circle area and yes DuPont does have a large gay population.  I would not infer anything.

by jonahinnyc 2008-05-07 09:10PM | 0 recs
Re: DuPont vs. Logan

Logan Circle is also a gay neighborhood now.  In fact, considering the gradual sanitization of Dupont, some might say Logan Circle is the new Dupont.

by Sandwich Repairman 2008-05-07 10:06PM | 0 recs
I would not necessarily ...

infer anything either.  The restaurant is at the heart of what now is THE gay area in DC (I'm gay & live & work in DC) but the restaurant itself I believe is more generic ... haven't been there myself though ... nevertheless, here's an interesting restuarant review of the place:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/logan-tavern-was hington

One of the entries from 2006 reads:
"On the evening my favorite Washingtonian and I dined at Logan Tavern the customers were at least 75% men - old men, young men, men in suits, men in jeans. Coming from San Francisco, I felt very much at home in this setting. I only wish the Castro had a single restaurant that served food as lovely as Logan Tavern's!"

by silver spring 2008-05-08 05:53AM | 0 recs
Re: I would not necessarily ...

In philly, the term 'gayborhood' is popular...

by lutton 2008-05-08 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

by DaleA 2008-05-07 07:08PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

I think we need a new candidate here, preferably a Staten Island one.  Harrison is a good guy but hasn't raised much money.  Domenic Recchia is a more serious challenger, a City Councilman, and has actually raised more money than Vino, but he too is from Brooklyn, and doesn't even live in the district.  There are strong Staten Island Democrats such as Sen Diane Savino, who could run a lot stronger on Staten Island than a Brooklyn candidate.

by lorax 2008-05-07 07:46PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

Harrison ran better in Staten Island than any Democratic challenger to Vito since the special election to fill the congressional seat when Molinari resigned in the '90s. And he did it with ZERO help from the DCCC.

Harrison's mother and sister also live on the Staten Island side, so it's not like he has no ties there. Also, the "strong" Staten Island Democrats are the same people who have refused to field a challenger for the last few cycles.

On what basis do you claim that Recchia is a more serious challenger? I don't see how you can say that we need someone from Staten Island, yet also claim that someone who has no ties to the area is a stronger candidate than someone who has lived in the district his whole life.

by kbse matt 2008-05-07 08:42PM | 0 recs
Pls read what I wrote upthread

by debcoop 2008-05-07 09:17PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

Harrison did run well on Staten Island compared to part Democratic challengers, I'll give him that, although I don't think having his mother and sister live there really does much for him.

Recchia is a more serious challenger based on his ability to raise more money than Fossella and way more money than Harrison.  Sadly, it comes down to that.  That said, I don't think Recchia is a good fit either.  He should run in whatever district he actually lives in.

The fact that the Staten Island Democrats haven't run a real challenger to him in years doesn't mea they aren't "strong."  Obviously Staten Island doesn't have enough elected Democrats, but that speaks to the difficulty of winning as a Democrat on Staten.  It also suggests that Staten is where the Democrat needs to improve his or her winning percentage to better than the 40 percent Harrison got there in 2006.  Running a Democrat who is actually from Staten Island would do a lot to get us there.

by lorax 2008-05-08 09:47AM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

Recchia lives in NY-08, Rep. Nadler's district so it doesn't look like he will be able to run for that seat any time soon.  

As for Recchia being the stronger candidate I don't know how true that is.  He does have the money lead but Harrison has picked up every political club endorsement that has happened so far.  He has also picked up DFNYC and PDA.  I believe Recchia has only shown up to one endorsement meeting.  So one has money the other has club support.  Not sure how anyone is a clear favorite at the moment.

by jonahinnyc 2008-05-08 01:57PM | 0 recs
please read what I wrote upthread

by debcoop 2008-05-07 09:18PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

Harrison also has more cash on hand than Fossella.

by Sandwich Repairman 2008-05-07 08:27PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

From what i hear, recchia is the strongest dem candidate at this point.

by bluedavid 2008-05-07 08:31PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

Thanks Todd for the coverage.  I write the NY13Blog listed above as well as the new VinoFossella.com site.  I was hoping to have a little more time to roll that out but all this resignation talk has really pushed up my schedule.  To cover a few questions;

Harrison vs. Recchia
Both are from the Brooklyn portion of the district, with Recchia actually living outside of the district by a few blocks.  Neither candidate has outraised Fossella, but Recchia does have more cash on hand than Fossella by $100k ($350 v $250).  On the other hand Harrison has wrapped up nearly every imaginable endorsement; DFNYC, PDA (national and local), SIDA, Dem. Organization of Richmond County and American Heritage Dem. Club.  

Recchia for whatever reason has decided to not campaign and has yet to officially declare.  He was skipped almost every endorsement meeting and multiple debates/forums with Harrison.  Recchia thus far has not set up a campaign site, office or even put together any staff.  He does though have the support of Rep. Nadler (NY-08) which is helping with cash flow.  

Staten Island Dem. Candidates
There are only a handful of potentials here.  Sen. Diane Savino who holds a crucial state senate seat and is in charge of senate candidate recruitment which makes it hard to give up to run for Congress.  She represents the north shore and brooklyn, large democratic areas.  
City Councilmember McMahon who many believe has his eyes set on the borough presidency race in 2009.  His wife is getting a judicial position and he has little interest giving up working at his law firm and earning the additional income.  He represents a very democratic North Shore.
Assemblyman Cusick is the best of them.  His district is mid-island and the most conversative of any Democratic held position.  He has a lot of cross over support and easily wins re-elections.  The nomination has been his if he wanted it but he shys away from giving up his seat and campaigning hard.
Assemblywoman Hyer-Spencer and Senator Titone are the other two dems on the island and both are freshman.  Titone has his seat for as long as he wants and Hyer-Spencer is up for a very challenging re-election this fall.  She squeaked out a 1% win for this seat in 06.

by jonahinnyc 2008-05-07 09:22PM | 0 recs
Re: NY-13: Another Dem Pick-up Opportunity

The popular DA from Staten Island was a Dem, Bill Murphy, but he might be too sick to run for Congress as he retired due to kidney ailments.

I spend a lot of time with family on Staten Island, and I agree with those that the race would be best served in an ideal world by a Staten Island candidate.

I've observed that Staten Island residents die a death of a thousand cuts every day due to City policies born in and that serve the other boroughs at their expense. Bridge tolls, garbage dumping, lack of public transportation, share of budget, etc come to mind. No wonder many residents have been driven into the GOP column and are anti-NYC political machine by habit. (Many I've met consider themselves culturally closer to Bayonne, Newark and Jersey City NJ than Manhattan)

by wolff109 2008-05-08 06:19AM | 0 recs
Fossella admits to daughter and relationship

via the Observer;

"I have had a relationship with Laura Fay, with whom I have a three year old daughter.

"My personal failings and imperfections have caused enormous pain to the people I love and I am truly sorry.

"While I understand that there will be many questions, including those about my political future, making any political decisions right now are furthest from my mind.

"Over the coming weeks and months, I will to continue to do my job and I will work hard to heal the deep wounds I have caused."

by jonahinnyc 2008-05-08 07:24AM | 0 recs


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