Newspaper article Roll Call

Democrats Look Past Tuesday's New York Special Election

Newspaper article Roll Call

Democrats Look Past Tuesday's New York Special Election

Article excerpt

Republican Daniel Donovan is expected to cruise to victory Tuesday in the special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y.

Despite the apparent opportunity for Democrats stemming from Grimm's resignation in January, after the three-term Republican pleaded guilty to tax fraud, national Democrats did not see a path to victory and spent almost nothing to aid their party's candidate, New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile.

Democrats argue that despite the expected loss to the Staten Island district attorney, the 11th District -- with a northeastern boundary just blocks from Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign headquarters in Brooklyn -- is within reach in November 2016, with presidential-level turnout and further distance from a dismal midterm cycle.

"Democrats have won it [at the presidential level], so there's no question it's a winnable seat," said Jef Pollock, a New York-based Democratic pollster. "With the right candidate in the right year, it's definitely a winnable seat."

While Republicans quickly rallied around Donovan, Gentile was selected as the party's nominee after other top-tier Democrats -- including former Rep. Michael E. McMahon and state Assemblyman Michael Cusick -- passed on the race.

Democratic operatives said the top recruits opted out with the understanding that the unpopularity of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio in Staten Island and the challenges of turning out the Democratic base in an odd-timed election made winning the special a more formidable task than running next year.

Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he didn't understand Democrats' strategy of spending big against Grimm last year, then sitting out the special in favor of making another serious bid for the seat in 2016. He compared Grimm's margin of victory in 2014 to a fellow New Yorker, Steve Israel, the former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"If they want to spend money there, they certainly are welcome to," Walden told CQ Roll Call last month. "They spent $5 million against Michael Grimm and he got a bigger percentage of the vote than Steve Israel did, and we didn't spend any money. …

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