Republican Congressman Michael Grimm savaged Democratic rival Domenic Recchia Jr. after the challenger revealed he would skip a debate tonight in Brooklyn–the second such forum Mr. Recchia has missed.
Mr. Grimm–facing a tough re-election fight for his Staten Island and southern Brooklyn district–alluded to several embarrassing incidents where Mr. Recchia demonstrated a lack of knowledge of key free trade agreements, and where the Democrat claimed that his international vacations proved he had “great knowledge of foreign affairs.” The incumbent claimed that Mr. Recchia was afraid to take him on in public.
“It’s hardly surprising that my opponent is ducking yet another opportunity to debate me and put his record up against mine–once you look past the trite phrases and cookie-cutter talking points he continuously parrots, my opponent repeatedly demonstrates his total ignorance of every single issue of importance to the people of this district, including everything from local transit, to foreign policy and international affairs,” Mr. Grimm said.
Mr. Grimm’s camp also reiterated their familiar line of attack, linking Mr. Recchia with Mayor Bill de Blasio, with whom the challenger served in the City Council, and blasting him for voting in favor of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan and for raising property taxes in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
“It’s already laughable that Recchia is asking the hardworking people of Staten Island and Brooklyn for their vote when he did nothing for 12 years except vote to raise their taxes and add even more tolls on our bridges,” said Grimm spokesman Nick Iacono. “But repeatedly refusing to show his face and discuss the issues proves just how little respect he has for the people. I guess skipping debates makes sense when you’ve repeatedly been called out for having zero grasp of the issues and an abysmal record as a puppet for a radical mayor who is taking our city down a disastrous path.”
Leaders of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, which organized the forum, said they were never given notice whether Mr. Recchia would attend at all.
“I received a phone call from them back in September that they received the invitation, and they were sending it to their scheduler and they would get back to me. And they never got back to me,” said Dyker Civic president Frances Vella-Marrone.
Mr. Recchia’s camp noted that Ms. Vella-Marrone works in Mr. Grimm’s Brooklyn office, and dismissed the Dyker Civic event as a Republican pow-wow. The Democrat’s team said the candidate would attend future debates.
“This reeks of pathetic desperation, especially considering the fact that Grimm’s official congressional staffer is running this ‘debate,'” said Sarah Weinstein, a spokesman for Mr. Recchia. “While Domenic’s schedule will not permit him to attend a Grimm Staff meeting, he looks forward to matching his record of delivering results against Grimm’s record of failed and embarrassing leadership in the four other debates we have scheduled.”
Ms. Weinstein would not say where Mr. Recchia will be this evening. Documents obtained by the Observer indicate he will be holding a fund-raiser in Staten Island.
Ms. Vella-Marrone, for her part, noted that she has been president of Dyker Civic for more than 20 years before she worked for Mr. Grimm and that the organization has been around since 1928 and has held debates for much of its existence. She also said that the yearly candidates forums have a history of even-handedness.
“You can talk to anybody in the community and beyond who comes to the Dyker Civic debates, they always look forward to them. People always tell me ‘I’m looking forward to your debate,’ and that’s people on both sides of the aisle,” she said. “They feel it’s a very fair and full debate. I think Recchia is missing an opportunity to meet with the voters.”
Mr. Recchia also skipped the Bay Ridge Community Council debate in Brooklyn in September, but attended the Bay Ridge Council on Aging debate earlier this month–where the moderator, Peter Killen, is known to be active in the local Democratic Party. Mr. Grimm has attended all candidate forums held so far.
The race is one of the tightest in the nation, in part because Mr. Grimm faces a 20-count federal indictment for allegedly hiring undocumented immigrants at a Manhattan restaurant he owned prior to his 2010 election.
Updated to include Mr. Recchia’s plans for the evening.