With the recent indictment of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) on more than 20 federal charges, the Republican party has almost lost its last GOP-held seat in New York City. While the congressmen has proclaimed his innocence and refuses to resign from office, saying he’ll run for re-election in the fall, Democrats have a strong chance of taking the Staten Island seat.
Outside of a federal courthouse in Brooklyn on Monday, Grimm called the case a “political witch hunt” designed “to assassinate my character and remove me from office.” The charges, which have been under investigation for two years, stem from his ownership of an Upper East Side restaurant called “Healthalicious” (no, seriously, that’s the name). Grimm said he would fight all of them “tooth and nail.”
Because April 10 was the deadline to file for the June 24 congressional primary in New York, it is too late to remove Grimm from the ballot in New York’s 11th Congressional District. So, voters in Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn will have to wait until November to hold him accountable for whatever they decide he’s guilty of. In the meantime, Republican leadership is now also mulling over the possibility of dropping financial and strategic support for Grimm’s campaign going forward, a huge blow to the Tea Party Republican.
Cook Political Report has now officially moved the district’s rating to “lean Democratic” after the charges dropped. This is good news for Grimm’s Democratic opponent, former city councilman Domenic Recchia, who was considered one of the party’s strongest challengers even before Grimm’s indictment.
“The people of Staten Island and Brooklyn deserve better — they deserve a congressman who abides by the law just like everybody else,” Recchia said in a statement released soon after the indictment. “I’m in this race because I believe the people of this district deserve someone who will put them first, and fight for the middle class by creating jobs, providing better transportation options, improving our schools, and supporting our veterans when they return home.”
The district has a history of leaning left in federal elections, and President Obama won the district in 2012 with 52 percent of the vote. The margin was much higher in 2008, when Obama took the district by 91 percent.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the progressive Democrat elected by a wide margin last year, has already thrown his support behind Recchia, saying recently he “[thinks] very strongly that Domenic Recchia will be the next congressman” from the district. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has also jumped on board, and will host a cocktail reception for Recchia on May 6.
The invitation asks donors to support Recchia in his race against “the LAST Republican left in New York City” saying it will be a great way to “learn about the campaign and how Democrats nationwide believe that we will turn NY-11 from red to blue.”
Grimm is, in part, accused of hiring a staff of illegal immigrants to work at his restaurant and then paying them in cash under the table. He used an AOL email account (seriously) to continue this stunt while he was campaigning for office, corresponding with the business manager to tell him how much to pay employees. As a total figure, Grimm is accused of hiding more than $1 million in receipts and hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages to avoid paying income, payroll and sales taxes. As a final cherry, he also is accused of lying under oath about almost all of this in January 2013, when he was deposed in a federal lawsuit filed by two former employees who accused him of paying them less than the minimum wage.
Oh, and in case you thought his name might ring a bell, it should. Grimm is the same New York representative who was caught on camera verbally assaulting a NY1 reporter in January, saying he would “break [him] in half like a boy.” Refresh your memory below:
Despite all of this, Grimm is currently refusing to resign from his seat (and thus will continue to receive his $174,000 salary during this sticky process). He did, however, resign from the powerful House Financial Services Committee after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a letter requesting his removal.
The news of Grimm’s less-than-savory activities is, unfortunately, not a new story for the district. Republican Vito Fossella, who represented the district from 1997 to 2009, was arrested for drunk driving in 2008 on his way to visit the mother of his illegitimate child in Virginia.
While this horrifying series of headlines might spell the end for even the most experienced of politicians, it will most certainly spell the end for Grimm. Democrats have been hoping to flip his seat since before the charges dropped, and it looks like they’ll have even more firepower now.