Former Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr.–challenger to embattled Republican Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm–was apparently unable to explain his stances on key trade and labor issues when questioned by reporters this afternoon.
Speaking to the press after meeting with union representatives at Da Noi restaurant in Staten Island, Mr. Recchia, a Democrat, tried to portray himself as a friend to organized labor — but came up short when asked for details about his positions. Mr. Recchia said several times that he was against approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed free-trade agreement between the United States, Australia and several South American and Asian nations, which Mr. Recchia referred to as the TPP.
When asked what the TPP was, Mr. Recchia simply repeated again that he was against it.
“I’m opposed to the TPP, that’s my position. I want things that are made in America, that’s what we’re about,” he said.
The candidate also attacked what he said was Mr. Grimm’s poor voting history on union issues, but was still unable to provide details.
“He’s done a lot,” Mr. Recchia began, then corrected himself. “He has not done a lot for labor. He has a 44 percentage record on labor. My record is much higher.”
When asked who had given Mr. Grimm that rating, Mr. Recchia again repeated himself.
“His record, he has a 44 percentage record on labor,” he said.
Inside, the candidate told the dozen labor leaders assembled that he favored ending policies that had resulted in the shipping of jobs overseas.
“Some of our trade policies that threaten union jobs, they must be stopped,” he said.
However, when asked afterward if he wanted to repeal the controversial Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement–which eliminated commerce barriers between the U.S., Canada and Mexico–Mr. Recchia responded with a blank stare.
Campaign aide Sarah Weinstein took the blame for Mr. Recchia’s befuddled reaction, saying she believed she confused the candidate by encouraging him to go back inside the restaurant while questions were still being asked. Ms. Weinstein said that the 44 percent rating came from the AFL-CIO.
Mr. Grimm in fact has a 43 percent rating from the AFL-CIO, though he enjoys the support of a number of construction unions.
Some of the labor leaders present said they had a favorable impression of Mr. Recchia.
“I think Domenic’s a progressive, workingman’s candidate,” said William Carroll, Legislative Officer of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 891.
Mr. Carroll added, however, that his support for Mr. Recchia was more about trying to help the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives than about any particular problem with Mr. Grimm’s record.
“He’s been okay. He’s not someone we’re desperate to defeat except to the end that we need to change the leadership down there,” said Mr. Carroll.