By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Former councilman Domenic Recchia has made it official – he’s running for congress.
Recchia, a Democrat, announced the start of his campaign to unseat two-term US Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island) at the Stars and Stripes Democratic Club on 15th Avenue on March 8.
“We listen to the people. People are screaming out that they’ve had enough of Michael Grimm,” Recchia told a roomful of Democratic Party activists. "We need a member of congress who is going to make us proud."
Recchia had already announced his run for congress at a rally last week in front of his mother’s Staten Island home. The announcement at the Stars and Stripes Club on Saturday served as his Brooklyn campaign kickoff.
Recchia noted that Grimm’s campaign finances from his 2010 campaign are under federal investigation and charged that the incumbent is giving constituents “a sideshow” instead of properly representing them. A woman who raised funds for Grimm’s campaign was arrested by the FBI in January and has been charged with working through “straw donors” to funnel illegal contributions to the congressman’s campaign. Grimm has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Recchia also sought to tie Grimm to the House Republican leadership, noting that he voted to shut down the federal government during the battle over whether to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. “Michael Grimm voted to shut down the government of this country. That will never happen again,” he said.
Other speakers at the campaign kickoff attempted to tie Grimm to Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas. “His ideology is in that narrow Ted Cruz style of no-government is good,” said Joe Bova, Democratic district co-leader of the 49th Assembly District in Brooklyn. “They say, ‘Pick yourself up by your bootstraps.’ That’s okay… if you have boots.”
Recchia served three terms in the City Council before being forced out by the city’s tem limits law which prohibited him from running for another term. He represented the 47th Council District covering Coney Island and Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst. During his tenure he rose to prominence, first as chairman of the council’s Cultural Affairs Committee and then chairman of the Finance Committee.
The 11th Congressional District, which Grimm has represented since 2010, is heavily slanted toward Staten Island. That borough accounts for two-thirds of the district. The other third of the district is composed of the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. Grimm lives on Staten Island.
Recchia and his supporters insisted that the race is winnable for him, despite the fact that he is from Brooklyn and despite the fact that he is a Democrat running in a district that often leans Republican. “When they say we can’t win this district, we can win this district!” Recchia said. “Barack Obama won Staten Island 52 percent.”
His strategy for the November election, he said, is to win Brooklyn by a wide margin, win the north shore of Staten Island, and compete with Grimm in the mid-island areas.
“It’s here in Brooklyn that we have to win big,” he said.
The national Democratic Party believes in him, he said. “This is a big race. This is one of the top races in the country.”
Recchia pointed out that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has designated the race as one of the top 16 contests around the country to watch.
Recchia has been named to the DCCC’s Jumpstart Program, http://dccc.org/blog/entry/dccc_announces_four_additions_to_jumpstart_program_for_top_tier_candidates/ in which top tier candidates are given financial, communication, operational, and strategic support.
Frank Seddio, the Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman, said that the county is making the Recchia-Grimm race a priority, too. “It’s about what people want,” Seddio said. “Domenic is a street guy, a guy like us.”
But Recchia may face a primary challenger. The Rev. Erick Salgado, a conservative church pastor who ran for mayor last year, is said to be mulling a run for congress himself and is rumored to be gearing up to challenge Recchia in a Democratic primary. That means Recchia would have to first defeat Salgado before setting his sights on ousting Grimm.
Recchia vowed that if he wins election, he will provide more services for Superstorm Sandy victims, get the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide discounts on the Verrazano-Narrow Bridge tolls for all New Yorkers, pass gun control legislation, and work to preserve the US Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Grimm issued the following statement in response to Recchia’s criticisms of him:
“Notice that my opponent has to personally attack me because he could never compare his record to mine. My reputation as one of the most bipartisan members of congress is a fact, including the numerous appearances on national TV where I stood in strong opposition to the government shutdown and positions taken by Ted Cruz. My opponent is trying to distract voters from the reality that what he supports is failing the American people, whether it’s the President’s disastrous healthcare plan and weak foreign policy, or the radical agenda of his fellow progressive Mayor de Blasio. Fortunately, my results speak for themselves: last Congress I had the most bills of any freshman to pass the House and the most signed into law. This year, my flood insurance relief bill is one of the most substantial, bipartisan reforms to pass Congress in recent years. My opponent’s nonsensical comments prove 2 things: That he’s out of touch with the voters in Brooklyn and he’s certainly not reading the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which has consistently reported the real, tangible results I’ve brought to our borough, like saving Fort Hamilton from being susceptible to a BRAC closure, and getting the $60 billion Sandy relief bill through congress while he spent Brooklyn’s money trying to buy votes in Staten Island. Just ask anyone from Coney Island. My opponent abandoned them during Sandy and gave their money to Staten Island Zoo."
Grimm was referring to the fact that Recchia, as Finance Committee chairman, secured funding for projects on Staten Island.
Ian Prior, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is supporting Grimm's re-election bid, said voters won’t be fooled by rhetoric.
"Domenic Recchia can put on all the dog-and-pony shows he wants between now and November, but people just aren't going to forget his support for a record property tax increase, congestion pricing, and extending term limits so that he could continue to dole out taxpayer funds to his cronies," he said.
The article was updated to include comments from Grimm and the National Republican Congressional Committee.