After the fall of Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer and personal scandal surrounding (and, in fact, volunteered by) incoming Democratic Gov. David Patterson, it seemed as if New York had already had its share for one year. And then came the drunken driving arrest and revelations of an extramarital affair and second "family" that Republican Rep. Vito Fosella (R-NY) sustained here in the Washington area. Yesterday, Fosella announced he would not seek re-election this fall.
Three days after insisting he was a candidate for re-election and making campaign appearances, the 43-year-old Fossella announced on May 20 he would not seek re-election after all. One could almost hear the collective sighs of relief from Republicans in the 13th District (Staten Island-Brooklyn) and in Washington over the announced exit of Fossella (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 86%).
“Vito made the right decision for himself, his wife, and his children,” Mike Long, New York State Conservative Party Chairman, told me hours after Fossella’s statement (and shortly after talking to the congressman himself). “Others who have his problem should follow his example.” Long, whose party holds “Row D” on the Empire State ballot and has always given its endorsement to Fossella, predicted that party leaders would soon begin holding meetings to find a Republican candidate to try to succeed Fosella. He also said he felt that the district that has been in Republican hands under three congressmen since 1980 would remain that way if the GOP and Conservatives united behind a single candidate.
Even before Fossella’s announcement, speculation swirled around Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan as a possible candidate. The New York Times reported that House Republican Leader John Boehner had called Donovan over the weekend (when Fossella was still sounding like a candidate) to discuss his prospective bid for the seat. Another Repubilcan prospective is former State Assemblyman Matt Irones.
Two other possible contenders who get high marks from both Republicans and Conservatives are businessmen Tim Corcoran and Paul Atanasio. Both are successful businessmen who have the contacts necessary to wage well-funded campaigns. Atanasio, in particular, is well-thought of by the Conservative Party; a registered Conservative himself, the Vietnam veteran and Wall Street executive waged a nearly-successful race for Congress in 1980 against a Democratic incumbent in the district that was eventually merged with the 13th. Although he has not sought office since, Atanasio has remained active in politics and is a regular participant at Conservative Party conclaves.
When Fosella’s personal troubles began to unfold, Democrats had high hopes of picking up the lone U.S. House district in New York City. ’06 Democratic nominee Steve Harrison has signaled he wants to run again, and City Councilmen Dominic Recchia (Brooklyn) and Mike McMahon (Staten Island) are both exploring a bid. But signs are strong that, with Fossella leaving, Democratic chances have dimmed in a district in which George W. Bush won 55% of the vote in ’04.