Embattled Congressman Michael Grimm slammed his challenger, former Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia, for dropping out of a debate scheduled for this evening–while the forum’s organizers released barbs of their own.
After Mr. Recchia said in an interview on NY1 last night that he would not attend the annual “Great Bay Ridge Debate” in Brooklyn, Mr. Grimm put out a statement blasting his opponent. The congressman, first elected to the Staten Island- and southern Brooklyn-spanning seat in 2010, accused Mr. Recchia of being scared to face criticisms about his voting record during his three terms in the City Council.
“Once again, my opponent is trying to fool the voters by laying low and hoping that no one will find out about his abysmal 12-year record as a Brooklyn councilman where he voted to raise every middle class tax he could, from property taxes 18.5 percent to income taxes, and to add even more tolls on our bridges,” Mr. Grimm said in his release today, tying Mr. Recchia to Democratic leaders considered unpopular in the district. “He’s refusing to debate me because he’s afraid that the sooner middle-class Staten Islanders and Brooklynites discover his record is in lock-step with the ultra-liberal dream team of Bill de Blasio, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama, the sooner they will send him packing.”
Mr. Grimm’s spokesman, Nick Iacono, went further–accusing Mr. Recchia of trying to avoid embarrassing mis-steps and misstatements that have plagued him recently at public speaking events.
“After several cringe-worthy gaffes courtesy of Recchia’s incoherent ramblings on the campaign trail–from having no idea what the major trade agreement (TPP) is despite saying he opposed it, to citing his vacations abroad as proof of his ‘great knowledge’ of foreign policy–it’s no surprise that he’s now refusing to debate Rep. Grimm tonight,” Mr. Iacono said. “Bottom line, there is a clear contrast here: Rep. Grimm firmly believes that nothing could be more important than meeting with the people and the communities that he proudly represents, as he has been privileged to do for the past three-and-a-half years as their congressman. It’s shameful that his opponent doesn’t feel that the hard-working people of Staten Island and Brooklyn are worthy of the same respect.”
Leaders of the Bay Ridge Community Council, a confederation of neighborhood organizations that runs the Great Debate every year, were aghast at Mr. Recchia’s decision not to attend. The organizers pointed out that they invited Mr. Recchia in early August, and noted that Democratic candidates for State Senate and the Assembly were scheduled to attend.
“One wonders whether he’s simply afraid to debate GOP Congressman Michael Grimm, or Recchia’s handlers are telling him NOT to debate!” Ted General, a member of the Council’s board of directors, said in a statement to the press. “It’s absolutely amazing that Recchia would want to diss and dismiss such a large gathering of interested and concerned voters.”
In his television interview, Mr. Recchia cited a “scheduling conflict” as his reason for not attending tonight’s event. His campaign, however, did not immediately respond to questions about where he is scheduled to be and when he made those plans.
The challenger’s team did, however, attack the incumbent for his 20-count federal indictment for allegedly hiring illegal immigrants at a restaurant he co-owned prior to holding office and for making false statements to investigators. Mr. Recchia’s spokeswoman, Sarah Weinstein, said there are debates planned down the road–even though she did not immediately respond to questions as to when and where those debates will be.
“Yet again, Michael Grimm and his campaign demonstrate no respect for the truth, which really isn’t surprising given the fact that Grimm has been indicted on 20 federal counts including lying under oath. Not only do we have debates scheduled, something Michael Grimm is well aware of, we look forward to matching his record against Domenic’s,” Ms. Weinstein told the Observer.
She went on to recall Mr. Grimm’s threatened assault of an NY1 reporter in February and the revelation that one of his fund-raisers used straw donors to make unlawful donations to his 2010 election effort.
“While Michael Grimm has made headline after headline for his embarrassing personal conduct–a 20 count federal indictment, threatening to murder a reporter on live television, and accepting illegal campaign contributions–Domenic Recchia has been a champion for middle class families in this district, creating and saving jobs for teachers and firefighters, making college more affordable, and passing four, on-time, balanced, and bipartisan budgets without raising taxes,” she said.
A recent Siena poll showed Mr. Grimm with a narrow four-point lead over Mr. Recchia among likely voters. Mr. Grimm has pleaded not guilty to all charges of wrongdoing, and will go to trial in December, after the general election.