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NY-13: Fossella on the Ropes

by: James L.

Wed May 07, 2008 at 2:25 AM EDT

Vito Fossella may have been able to survive his recent DWI arrest, but can he survive the upcoming sex scandal?

On the night of Fossella's arrest, the congressman called on a "very good friend", a former intelligence officer at the Pentagon, to pick him up from jail:

Fossella, according to a police report, said he was rushing to see his "sick daughter" and take her to the hospital. But, the Republican lawmaker, allegedly blew a 0.17 into the officer's Breathalyzer - twice the legal limit - and was hauled off to jail.

A few hours later, Fossella called Fay to sign him out of jail.

When asked whether Fay's 3-year-old was the same girl Fossella had to take to the hospital, his spokeswoman declined to comment.

"That is a demeaning and highly inappropriate question that does not deserve an answer," said Susan Del Percio, a high-priced public-relations crisis consultant.

Roll Call has more:

But despite the display of normalcy in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, rumors were swirling behind the scenes that the 43-year-old Congressman might not be able to survive the spate of embarrassing headlines that have blared from New York newspapers since his arrest. [...]

Privately, however, political leaders and operatives on both sides of the aisle were beginning to express doubt that Fossella can serve out the remainder of his term - let alone remain politically viable in November.

"I think the realization is beginning to sink in that he can't last," said one Washington, D.C., Republican. [...]

[A] New York-based GOP consultant who did not want to be named said some Republican insiders have been advised not to defend Fossella too aggressively, for fear that it could hurt the party's efforts to hold his seat if he chooses to resign or retire.

Already names are floating of possible Republican contenders for Fossella's seat, such as state Sen. Andrew Lanza and City Councilmen James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio. All are relatively young and quite popular.

Both parties are nervously considering the possibility that a quick Fossella resignation will force a special election to replace him.

If Fossella should resign before July 1st, Gov. Paterson has the option of calling a special election, or he could leave the seat vacant until the next Congress.  But if Fossella resigns, and if Paterson calls a special election here, there would be no primary.  In what would amount to one of the biggest backroom deals in recent political memory in NYC, party leaders would designate the nominees.  And that could spell trouble for current candidates Domenic Recchia and Stephen Harrison:

Although Recchia had more cash on hand than Fossella as of March 31 - $325,000 to $248,000 - his greatest handicap may be the fact he comes from Brooklyn, while most of the Congressional district's voters are in Staten Island. If there is a special election, it is possible that party leaders from that borough may try to tap one of their own as the nominee - though the top three Democratic elected officials on Staten Island, state Sen. Diane Savino, state Assemblyman Michael Cusick and City Councilman Michael McMahon, have all declined to run against Fossella in the past.

A Fossella resignation would be a once in a lifetime opportunity in this D+0.8 seat.  I wouldn't be surprised if the whispers continue to intensify over the weeks ahead.

James L. :: NY-13: Fossella on the Ropes
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A Staten Island candidate
is what we need to win this district.  Harrison and Recchia both live in Brooklyn, which is overwhelmingly Democratic and makes up about a third of the district.  Recchia does not even live in the district and cannot vote for himself in the primary.  I have a hard time seeing him win unless he is running against Fossella himself, which I greatly doubt will happen.

John Sweeney all over again... let's stick 'em with yet another special election debacle!!!

Male, 23, DC-At Large

Between Sweeney, Don Sherwood, Fossella, and Shotgun Randy,
the GOP may wind up handing us FOUR industrial northeast districts in two cycles, due to the massive personal failings of the incumbents.

That's got to hurt.

Have we lost even one district that way?  We held Gary Condit's seat.  We'll hold Bill Jefferson's, obviously.  We held Mark Dayton's seat.  We held Torricelli's.  Have we lost any seats since Rostenkowski and the rest of the Congress, since 1994, due to personal weaknesses of this kind?

I assume we must have, but I can't think of any.

28, gay guy, Democrat, CA-08

[ Parent ]
NY-26 Tom Reynolds
Reynolds held on last cycle, but his retirement this year ia surely in part due to his own problems (Foley Scandel, etc.)  We have a greater than 50/50 shot at winning that seat this year.

[ Parent ]
I can't think of any, either . . .
. . . but I am a bit nervous about how things will play out in the 2010 New York Gubernatorial.

[ Parent ]
Paterson has an approval rating of nearly 60% according to SurveyUSA...
and that was after his personal life became known.  Either Paterson or Cuomo should take the Governor's race in 2010.  Rudy has run too far to the right to win election in NY.  Probably the only non-Dem who could win that race is Bloomberg.  

[ Parent ]
Oh and PA-07 Weldon too...
Let us not forget Weldon's home being raided by the FBI just before the 2006 election, giving us that seat in a landslide.

[ Parent ]
I was kindof leaving out political corruption
cause that's actually how the game is played, I'm guessing.  You're not supposed to get caught, but quid pro quo... I mean, that is politics.

So Ney, and DeLay, and Pombo, and Weldon, and Weller, and some of the others I'm leaving off for now.

What I was going for is the strictly personal mistakes: the DUIs, the domestic violence.  Those have nothing to do with straying beyond the gray lines of ordinary politics.  That's just personal weakness.

Spitzer (and to a lesser extent, McGreevey) were the obvious cases I was missing.  Unless it's the case that most politicians consort with high-dollar prostitutes, and Spitzer was punk'd by the DOJ more than he was "caught"... leaving aside that possibility, then in the conventional view Spitzer committed a massive unforced error that was strictly personal in nature.  That's the only case so far that compares to what Fossella just did.

Though even there... come on.  Fossella has apparently had this woman as a mistress since 2003, when he was her guest at an official function for the Air Force in Britain.  If this has been the situation -- hell, if that's his three-year-old kid!! -- then it has been obvious all along to anyone who cared to know.  So why does he have to resign for it now?  The DUI didn't "expose" this fact in any meaningful way, except that it puts it in the printed record, whereas before it wasn't (though any journalist who cared to know could have known).

Anyway, the way this all works is pretty smelly to me.  Everyone knows he has a mistress, but as soon as it becomes "official public knowledge", he has to resign?  WTF.

28, gay guy, Democrat, CA-08

[ Parent ]
What exactly was wrong...
... with Mark Dayton?

[ Parent ]
I have never ever figured it out...
Here's the official, mainstream press articulating the case against him (Time Magazine's best and worst US Senators, 2007)

When he was elected in 2000, Minnesota Democrat Mark Dayton seemed well prepared, having worked as an aide to Walter Mondale in the 1970s. But he has exhibited erratic behavior since then: in October 2004 he shut down his office for almost a month, citing an unspecified terrorist threat. The 99 other Senators had access to the same intelligence and kept their offices open, even while Dayton went on television to tell his constituents not to visit the Capitol. In February Dayton, 59, made another notable blunder. The Mayo Clinic, which is in Rochester, Minn., was opposed to a South Dakota - based company's plan to expand its railroads into Rochester because it would mean dozens of trains passing by the clinic each day. Dayton told FORTUNE magazine the Mayo Clinic is "worth a hell of a lot more than the whole state of South Dakota." He later apologized for the remark.

Inside the Senate, Dayton has passed few bills partly because some are too liberal for the Republican-controlled body, including one that would have created a Department of Peace and Nonviolence. He has confounded his colleagues by complaining about basic facts of the job, such as his limited power in a chamber where authority derives from seniority. He announced early last year that he wouldn't seek re-election.

My assumption is that that is a related but minor version of whatever actually led to his being forced from the Senate.  Sortof like how the mainstream press reported that Bernie Kerik had an illegal nanny, when they knew very well that that was true, but was merely the official and certainly not the real reason why his nomination was withdrawn.  (The NYT a couple years later did get around to explaining his mob ties, for which he was eventually indicted.)

So, I have never figured out what Mark Dayton really did to cause nearly everyone to turn against him.  But in a world where Jim Bunning gets re-elected, I seriously doubt that closing his office for a bit is the only reason he lost his credibility with the players.

28, gay guy, Democrat, CA-08

[ Parent ]
You failed to take into account...
... the heinous double standard against Democrats, which sadly, even progressive bloggers often buy into, Dayton being an excellent example of this so sad and too oft occurrence.

[ Parent ]
Savino, McMahon, Cusick
Diane Savino holds a crucial state senate seat in Staten Island.  To give it up potentially puts state Dems at a disadvantage as they are about to flip the senate.  It will be much easier for Republicans to hold onto Lanza's seat should he get the nod as opposed to Dems holding Savino's seat. Diane's seat is north shore and Brooklyn, two parts of the district Dems are expected to carry regardless of the nominee.  The same for McMaon's city council district.

McMahon is term limited out of office in 2009.  Most believe he will be going after the Staten Island borough presidency.  His wife is up for a judicial position which may make him not want to split his time between NY and DC. McMahon also likes his position at his law firm and can continue that while also serving on Council and would have to give that up for a Congressional seat.

Everything I hear about Cusick is that he would be a strong candidate, he holds a conservative mid-island seat with cross over appeal, but he dislikes campaigning.  He could be the clear favorite nominee this year or even 2006 if he wanted it and he has shied away.  

Oddo, Donovan
The Post is saying that Republicans are talking about Councilman James Oddo and DA Dan Donovan as potential replacements.  Oddo represents the south shore of Staten Island and would be a hard conservative to go up against but it is Donovan that would prove difficult.  Donovan has run borough wide races and won as DA and seemingly is above the ethical fray that has caught Fossella.  Donovan won with 68% in 2007, a year where there were higher expectations for Dems on the ballot.  

The huge news was buried in an article in the Staten Island Asvance.  When Fossella's high-priced public relations expert was asked "she declined to offer a yes- or-no answer when asked if Fossella is the child's father."  And yes, the mom was childless during her marriage which ended in 2004.  Gulp.

Fossella is continuing and perhaps accelerating his fund raising with no less than eight fund-raisers scheduled.  As the Advance put it, Vito is shaking the Money Tree.  Maybe that will provide his answer.  Meanwhile the paper notes "nominating petitions are set to hit the street on June 3" leaving the notion that more contenders will file from both sides to put added pressure on Fossella.

Whether any of this will or should cause Fossella to a) resign or b) prematurely retire is unclear.  

if we end up with a special election, it'll be a tough break for both of these candidates. But picking someone good from Staten Island makes a lot of sense for this election.

I knew Republicans were a dying breed in the North East... But man, maybe they might be willing to add themselves to the endangered species act... lol What is going on in New York... One of the FEW repubilcan seats not considered originally to be particularly competitive is now looking like it might be. lol Republicans in Texas had to cheat to eliminate democratic districts there... Democrats in the NE just have to leave them alone and let them implode on their own!

Justice is sweet, isn't it?

[ Parent ]
this is great stuff!
so what do our NYers say?  whose most likely to win?

i was looking at all the numbers and i couldn't figure out why this race wasn't moving.

I'd imagine NY'ers are saying...
"what's a republican doing holding office still in these parts?  Didn't we vote out the last bunch of them back in 06?"

[ Parent ]
Most of us . . .
. . . don't consider Staten Island to be part of the real New York!

[ Parent ]
Dem Ohio AG is going down the same way
the problem is all these damned politicians are human and they do bad things and then they lie about them.  once we start electing robots we can stop worrying.

as a minnesotan, i have to tell you that i like mark dayton but rumors of simply odd behavior persisted in every public service he has done.  he felt he would have a hard time winning reelection (although in '06 he'd have had a decent shot) and he wasn't up to it.  i think we'd all be better off if more politicians thought this way.  maybe this is what allard of CO thought.

Daytona is running for MN Gov in 2010
Hope the DFL has a better candidate ready to run so Daytona doesn't the the nomination.  I recall hearing the the Minneapolis Mayor mentioned often.  I was hoping Dems will take the MN governor's race in 2010 so we control the 2012 redistricting.  Heck, the Dems are nearing veto proof majorities in the MN state house and senate.

[ Parent ]
Whatever you might think of Mark Dayton, this kind of snipy, juvenile comment should be beneath you, if you believe in any kind of civil discourse.

texas dem, if you're out there, I hope you caught the above example of possibly "progressive" bloggers making this kinds of vapid, insipid commentary that is the reason why Democrats that courageously run for office in a country who's media seems to be perpetually against them will always be seen as losers until the GOP literally makes the country sink faster than the Titanic.

[ Parent ]

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