Voters in the 11th Congressional District, which encompasses Staten Island and a portion of southern Brooklyn, will be going to the polls on May 5 for a special election to fill the seat Michael Grimm vacated earlier this year after pleading guilty to a tax evasion charge.
Republicans, who have held the seat almost continuously since 1981 (a Democrat, Mike McMahon, served two years from 2009 to 2010), nominated Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan to replace Mr. Grimm. Democrats chose Council member Vincent Gentile, a veteran legislator who served in the State Senate before his election to the Council in 2003.
The Observer endorses Mr. Donovan and urges the district’s voters to send him to the House.
The Observer endorses Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan and urges the district’s voters to send him to the House.
Mr. Donovan will be new to the legislative process on Capitol Hill, but he is hardly a newcomer to the world of practical politics. Before he won election as district attorney in 2003, Mr. Donovan served as chief of staff to Borough President Guy Molinari, Staten Island’s longtime Republican powerbroker and kingmaker. Mr. Donovan worked closely with Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s office on any number of local issues affecting Staten Island, most prominently the closing of the well-hated Fresh Kills landfill on the island borough’s west shore.
Trained as a prosecutor at Fordham University, Mr. Donovan has gained a reputation as a district attorney who drives a hard plea bargain and who is not so fast to dismiss charges against first-time, low-level offenders.
Mr. Donovan has not been a perfect candidate for promotion to Washington. As the Observer’s Ross Barkan noted recently, Mr. Donovan needs to brush up on national and global issues if he is to be an effective member of Congress.
Nothing Mr. Donovan can do or say will satisfy critics who believe he should have been able to bring an indictment in the Eric Garner case. Mr. Donovan believes the criticism is unwarranted, but whether or not that’s the case, it hasn’t hurt his campaign. He is expected to win handily over the underfunded Mr. Gentile, who bears the additional handicap of not living on Staten Island, home to the bulk of the district’s voters.
The district has not been served well in recent years. Two of its last three representatives, Mr. Grimm and Vito Fossella, both resigned amid scandal. Mr. Donovan has a chance to restore dignity to the seat.