Michael Grimm Has Eastwood-Style Empty Chair Face-Offs at Local Debates and Forums

michael grimm dyker Michael Grimm Has Eastwood Style Empty Chair Face Offs at Local Debates and Forums

Congressman Grimm standing alone at the Dyker Heights debate.

Last Friday night, all of the candidates for local office gathered for the Richmond County American Legion Political Forum. “The candidates were contacted by letter in August, and follow-up e-mails were sent in September and early October to each, asking for confirmation of attendance,” Ted Cohen, an organizer of the event, explained in an email. “Positive responses were received from almost every candidate. There was one notable exception.”

Mark Murphy, the Democratic candidate against freshman GOP Rep. Michael Grimm, did not attend. “I find it a bit disturbing that a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives would ignore an invitation from an important Veterans organization in his district,” Mr. Cohen continued in the letter, which can be found in full below.

Although Mr. Cohen has been publicly friendly to Mr. Grimm in the past, his point is further emphasized by other events. At a recent Dyker Heights debate, Mr. Murphy was again the only candidate for local office not in attendance, leaving Mr. Grimm  standing next to an empty chair. Mr. Grimm was also alone at the Bay Ridge Real Estate Board’s candidates forum, and while neither candidate attended the Arab American Civic Association’s forum, Mr. Murphy had told the group he would be there.

It’s difficult to run for Congress, especially against an incumbent. Candidates in such situations typically make every effort to attend these sorts of events in order to boost their name recognition and presence in the community. Asked about his absences, Mr. Murphy’s campaign spokesman Nathan Smith pointed towards today’s New York Timesendorsement editorial and said the Democratic contender was doing just fine.

The New York Times agrees, in their endorsement this morning, that Mark is running a dynamic campaign and is exactly the reform candidate that Staten Island and Brooklyn deserve,” he contended in a statement. “Mark has personally delivered his pro-middle class message to countless voters, and he will participate in three upcoming debates, two of which will be on television. Mark has been a visible and vocal candidate with a vigorous schedule of community meetings, forums, door-knocking, fundraisers, press interviews and voter contact. He cannot attend every meeting, but his campaign talks to thousands of voters every day, and his support is growing.”

To illustrate this point, Mr. Murphy’s campaign also provided a list of his activities in the last two weeks:

-Visited a dozen transportation hubs (express bus and train stations and ferry terminal) between 6:30 and 9 a.m.
campaigned with Hakeem Jeffries (this past weekend: two churches/two housing complexes)
-Walked door-to-door 8 nights in the district (Staten Island and Brooklyn)
-Held 6 fundraisers
-Met voters at 4 supermarkets on the weekends
-Made numerous calls to undecided voters in between his fundraisers and voter engagement efforts
-Attended dozens of weekend voter-contact events (cultural fests, churches, and street fairs)
-Spoken to hundreds of his volunteers at events at Staten Island and Brooklyn headquarters
-Prepared for three upcoming debates with Michael Grimm (two will be on TV)
-Attended the Marlboro Houses Tenants Association Meeting
-Attended Arab Muslim American Federation Meeting
-Met with Brooklyn Democratic district and party leaders
-Met with Staten Island Democratic leaders

On the other hand, here is the discontented Mr. Cohen’s email:

Subject: Richmond County American Legion Political Forum

The Political Forum sponsored by the American Legion of Richmond County was held on Friday, October 19th, at 7:00 PM at the Kells-Grennie Post on Amboy Road.

All declared candidates for every political office in Richmond County were invited to speak at the forum, which is held every two years.

The event was coordinated by our very able Mr. Lester Modelowitz, who expended a great deal of effort to make the evening informative and enjoyable. As always, he did a superb job.

The candidates were contacted by letter in August, and follow-up e-mails were sent in September and early October to each, asking for confirmation of attendance. Positive responses were received from almost every candidate. There was one notable exception which will be discussed below.

Each candidate was informed that he/she would have 6 minutes to speak, and no questions from the audience would be permitted. The topics were: key positions in the candidate’s platform, and specific opinions on Veteran issues ( education, housing, support of troops, VA health care, Veterans’ tax exemptions, war monuments, etc.).

The forum was very well attended by Legion members and the candidates’ comments were extensive, varied, helpful, and sincerely appreciated.

Sadly, Mr. Mark Murphy did not respond to the several contacts we made, and he did not show up. Had he decided to attend, even at the last moment, he would have been able to speak to the group.

I find it a bit disturbing that a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives would ignore an invitation from an important Veterans organization in his district. Mr. Murphy did not even give the Richmond County American Legion the courtesy of a response in order to decline our invitation.

Conversely, Congressman Grimm, the incumbent, perhaps facing less of an up uphill struggle than Mr. Murphy, did indeed address the group.

I’m sure all of the candidates for the various offices had multiple commitments and scheduling challenges. Nevertheless, the various contenders for State Senate and State Assembly chose to honor us with their presence, as did Congressman Grimm.

I felt it was important to advise you of the facts, and trust you will report same to your readers. I’m sure the general public would be interested in a potential Congressman’s slight of war Veterans in our district.

As word is passed throughout the Veteran community on Staten Island, I believe Mr. Murphy will receive little support from our members.

Thank you for your attention.

Ted Cohen
Captain, USAF Retired
Watkins-Kellett American Legion Post #277