An indictment might have hampered Congressman Michael Grimm’s ability to raise money, but national Democrats are still worried he can triumph in November.
Congressman Steve Israel, a Long Island Democrat and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters on a conference call this morning that Mr. Grimm, a Republican, may still survive a challenge from Democrat Domenic Recchia.
“In the Grimm race, the conventional wisdom is that that race is now a lean D, but I don’t see it as a lean D. I see it as a true toss up,” Mr. Israel said. “That’s going to be a national battleground.”
Mr. Israel did not elaborate much further on the race, but said he had classified the contest as one of three congressional races in New York State that national Democrats are “playing offense” on as they try to chip away at the Republican majority. He also said, predictably, he takes no race for granted.
“We’ve got the high ground on message. Grimm, [Republican Congressman Chris] Gibson and [Republican Congressman Tom] Reed have to defend why their caucus is going to spend all day trying to sue the president while their constituents in the middle class feel like they’re not making enough progress,” Mr. Israel said, referring to a lawsuit House Speaker John Boehner is bringing against President Barack Obama for his handling, among other things, of the Affordable Care Act.
After Mr. Grimm was indicted in April on a bevy of charges related to his management of a Manhattan restaurant before he was elected to Congress, the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan group that analyzes House and Senate races across the country, reclassified the race for the Staten Island and Brooklyn-based seat as “lean Democratic.”
“As long as the Republicans stick with Grimm on the ballot, they’re probably going to lose the district in the fall,” Dave Wasserman, the U.S. House editor at the Cook Political Report, told The Observer in April.
Since the indictment, Mr. Grimm has hemorrhaged staffers and struggled mightily to raise money. Mr. Recchia, a former Brooklyn councilman, raised 11 times as much money as Mr. Grimm last month. National Republicans are no longer giving cash to Mr. Grimm.
Democrats are giddy at the prospect of knocking off Mr. Grimm, but local political observers foresee a close race, as Mr. Israel predicted. Mr. Grimm is still relatively popular in the right-leaning district and Mr. Recchia is not well-known; Brooklyn candidates have also fared poorly in past elections.
Mr. Recchia’s campaign said the race has been “competitive from day one.”
“Michael Grimm’s reckless antics and his trouble with the law have made this race competitive from day one,” said Sarah Weinstein, a spokeswoman for Mr. Recchia. “One thing that’s clear is that the people of this district deserve better than an indicted congressman whose poor judgment and reckless behavior constantly stands in the way of getting results for middle class families.”
Mr. Grimm did not immediately return requests for comment.
Updated with comment from Mr. Recchia’s campaign.