Congressional Contenders Tussle Over House Republican Budget

Councilman Vincent Gentile (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer).
Councilman Vincent Gentile (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer). (Photo: Will Bredderman for Observer)

The new House Republican budget will be a political football in Washington, D.C.–and campaigns in Staten Island and Brooklyn are looking to play, too.

Councilman Vincent Gentile, a Brooklyn Democrat, bashed Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, his Republican opponent, for not distancing himself from a controversial budget proposal supported by House Republicans. The budget would partly privatize Medicare, turn Medicaid into block grants to the states and repeal the Affordable Care Act, putting in place cuts that would balance the budget in a decade.

Mr. Gentile is hoping voters in the 11th Congressional District–a swing seat roping in Staten Island and southern Brooklyn–will see Mr. Donovan as a tool of Washington Republicans, who control all of Congress. Approval ratings of Congress are at historical lows.

“My opponent has chosen to run and hide, hoping that no one is paying attention, while his party turns their back on the very Americans who need them most,” Mr. Gentile said in a statement. (He continued the attack at a Staten Island press conference today.)

“Average Americans have a hard enough time trying to make ends meet, and Congress should be working to create jobs and put money in people’s pockets,” he continued. “Instead, the Republicans have proposed an extreme budget that would support the super-rich while sticking it to seniors and hardworking New Yorkers.”

Mr. Donovan, who rose to prominence after a Staten Island grand jury voted not to indict a NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner, has distanced himself from national Republicans already, even though he has articulated little in the way of a detailed policy platform. Mr. Donovan criticized House Republicans for holding up funding for the Department of Homeland Security last month after conservatives hoped to use the bill as a way to cripple President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

But on the budget, Mr. Donovan was less dismissive, though his campaign said it was “not perfect.” Through a spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, he accused Mr. Gentile of “scaring seniors.”

“It’s not surprising Mr. Gentile is resorting to trying to scare seniors. He has already voted to raise taxes on the middle class so it’s scary to think what he’d do with the federal budget,” Mr. Proud said, referencing a City Council resolution Mr. Gentile voted for in 2003.

“This budget is not perfect, however it is just a starting point for negotiations. Dan’s top priority is protecting the commitments government has already made to our seniors while finding a balance between what taxpayers can afford and ensuring we have a strong safety net for those truly in need,” she added.

Mr. Gentile is the underdog in the special election, set for May 5. He is looking to galvanize older voters, who are expected to make up a large chunk of the electorate, to reject Mr. Donovan for aligning himself to closely with unpopular national Republicans.

The National Republican Campaign Committee, unlike their Democratic counterpart, has been active in the race so far, however. The NRCC challenged Mr. Gentile to decide which budget proposal he supports: Mr. Obama’s, the House Democrats’, the House progressives’, or the Congressional Black Caucus budget.

The GOP proposal is expected to pass the House but could have trouble in the Senate, where Republicans have a narrower grip on the majority and some GOP senators want more robust spending on the military. A spokesman for Mr. Gentile ripped the NRCC for trying to “distract voters.”

“Once again, the NRCC is trying to distract voters while Dan Donovan hides in the dugout and refuses to step up to the plate,” said the spokesman, Justin Brannan. Congressional Contenders Tussle Over House Republican Budget