Bitter Congressional Rivals (Almost) Collide at City Hall

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer).

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer).

Vincent Gentile, a Democrat, is running for Congress. He is also a member of the City Council.

Daniel Donovan, a Republican, is running for Congress. He is also the Staten Island district attorney.

The two men, rivals for an open House seat in Staten Island and southern Brooklyn, were on a collision course for City Hall this afternoon, where district attorneys in New York City testified at a preliminary budget hearing. Mr. Gentile sits on the public safety committee, which is conducting the hearings, and would have been in a position to grill Mr. Donovan on his budget testimony.

Unfortunately, for those who crave a drop of extra political intrigue at City Council budget hearings, Mr. Donovan was not in attendance. A spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, said he had a “prior engagement.” Sources said he attended a 9:30 a.m. funeral on Staten Island for Robert Collini, a State Supreme Court justice.

Daniel Master, the chief assistant district attorney in Mr. Donovan’s office, confirmed he was at the funeral. Mr. Master testified in place of Mr. Donovan.

Councilman Vincent Gentile on NY1. (Screengrab: NY1)

Councilman Vincent Gentile on NY1. (Screengrab: NY1)

The three district attorneys in attendance–Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. also was not present–began their testimony around 1 p.m. A City Council spokesman said the public safety committee would accommodate any officials who wanted to testify later in the day.

If National Democrats were as invested in the special election for the 11th Congressional District as Republicans, it’s possible Mr. Donovan’s absence could have become a campaign issue. When Mr. Gentile, an underdog in the race against Mr. Donovan, was missing from a preliminary budget hearing last Friday, the National Republican Campaign Committee pounced.

“Hey, does anyone know where Vinny Gentile is today? Perhaps he was snowed in? Maybe he’s at the airport to welcome Brandon Marshall to New York? Or was he just too busy campaigning for another job?” asked Ian Prior, a spokesman for the NRCC.

A showdown at the budget hearing, where politics (in theory) are supposed to be laid aside, could have been awkward for both men. Mr. Gentile has been more than willing to attack Mr. Donovan on a variety of issues; Mr. Donovan has mostly ignored him.

A spokesman for Mr. Gentile declined to comment on Mr. Donovan’s absence today.

The special election is set for May 5.

Bitter Congressional Rivals (Almost) Collide at City Hall