NY-13: Democrats get a shot at another open seat

After three weeks of uncertainty, Rep. Vito Fossella was not able to sustain the combined pressure of the Republican leadership and of the New York tabloids. Arrested for a DWI, Fossella found himself in the midst of a sex scandal as it was revealed that he was driving to see his mistress, Laura Fay, and daughter. And ethical considerations soon found their way in, as reports emerged that Fossella had taken Laura Fay on congressional trips...

Fossella first looked like he was hours from resigning but his friends and allies backtracked as the conventional wisdom became that Fossella was planning on running for re-election, boosted by a SUSA poll that showed him retaining a strong approval rating. But the pressure looks to have been too strong, as Fossella ended up quitting:

After a great deal of consideration, I have made the decision not to seek re-election to the United States House of Representatives this November. This choice was an extremely difficult one, balanced between my dedication to service to our great nation and the need to concentrate on healing the wounds that I have caused to my wife and family.

Fossella thus becomes the second New York politician in the space of three months to fall quite stunningly. Both Spitzer and Fossella were young hotshots who had much larger ambitions -- Spitzer was often rumored to be eying a presidential run, while Fossella (who was first elected to the House at 32) was a quickly rising star.

Fossella's decision also implies that he will not be resigning, so there will be no special election to fill his seat. That is a huge relief to House Republicans, as a low turnout special election would probably have sealed their doom in this swing district that leans ever so slightly Democratic. Bush won here by 11% in 2004 but he lost to Gore in 2000.

Naturally, an open seat will also be a huge headache for Republicans who will struggle to keep any New York seat in their column in November -- let alone an open one. Some are saying that Fossella's retirement is a relief for Republicans because they would have had a tough time holding the seat with the incumbent running again. I do not necessarily agree with that assessment. If no new ethical breached were revealed, I believe Fossella would not have been fatally wounded by this scandal, as the SUSA poll I referenced confirms.

This scandal could have effects further down the ballot. National Republicans are looking at state Senator Andrew D. Lanza to replace Fossella, but that would be a nightmare for Albany Republicans who are clinging to the slimmest of majorities in the state Senate, the last seat of power controlled by the New York GOP. Democrats have their own problems in this district. The district is split between Brooklyn and Staten Island (mostly in the latter) and Democrats have been engaged in a rather nasty (and silly) exchange over whether it is proper for a Brooklyn Democrat to take the party's nod.

The two candidates who were already running prior to the Fossella scandal were both from Brooklyn, in particular City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. from Coney Island. Other Democrats who are now looking to join in and are playing up their Staten Island allegiance are state Senator Diane Savino, city counilmember McMahon and Assembly Member Mike Cuisck. All three represent some portion of Staten Island (Swing State Project provides more details about those three potential candidates).



  • This race is definitely now a toss-up. Staten Island is the most Republican part of NYC but it still is still less Republican than some of the surrounding areas. It's possible that Bush won the district in 2004 because of 9/11.

    I don't know anything about New York Politics but I bet that Senator Lanza will not jump into the race: the Senate GOP only has a two seat majority and if Lanza retiring would make it easier for the Dems to win his seat, I guess the Albany GOP will convince him to stay. New York Republicans will have more sway over the National party because at least the GOP in NY controls part of the legislature while the national GOP is out of power and has little chance of taking back the House.

    As for the democrats, I would think that having someone from Staten Island would be better because most of the district is from Staten Island. There is going to be a very competive and nasty democratic primary in this district.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 20 May, 2008 13:55  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home