By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is looking at running for embattled U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm’s seat if Grimm’s political career can’t survive in the wake of the 20-count indictment leveled against him Monday by the Justice Department, according to a report in the New York Post.
The Post reported that Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), a rising star in GOP politics, is preparing for a run should she be called upon by Republican Party leaders to enter the race to save the day for the party, which is desperately trying to hold onto the congressional seat.
Grimm, who represents the 11th Congressional District, is the only Republican member of the New York City congressional delegation and party leaders are trying to keep the Staten Island-Brooklyn seat in GOP hands. Grimm is running for re-election in November and is facing a challenge from former councilman Domenic Recchia. Under one scenario that has been considered, Grimm would be nominated for a judgeship, a move that would pave the way for him to be removed from the congressional ballot, since New York State law prohibits a candidate from running for two different elective offices simultaneously. After Grimm is off the ballot, the GOP would substitute Malliotakis’s name there, according to reports.
Malliotakis, 33, first won her assembly seat in 2010 with support from both the Republican and Conservative parties, and coasted to an easy re-election victory in 2012. If she ran and won, she would be the first woman to hold the congressional seat since Susan Molinari represented the district in the 1990s.
Malliotakis has a reputation as a prodigious fundraiser. And she would have high-powered help from people who could pump money into her campaign. The Post article quotes billionaire John Catsimatidis, who ran for the Republican nomination for mayor last year, as saying he would support her. Malliotakis was an early supporter of Catsimatidis’s mayoral bid and often hit the campaign trail with him.
But Malliotakis downplayed any talk of a congressional bid. She said the name on her mind these days is not Michael, but Sandy. She is busy concentrating on helping Super-storm Sandy victims rebuild. The lawmaker also said she is focused on working on issues her constituents care about, she said.
“The allegations leveled against Congressman Grimm are serious, but they do not negate the fact that he has been a tireless servant for the people of his district. Like many, I question the timing of this indictment. While due process takes place, we cannot allow this to distract us from Sandy recovery and the other pressing issues facing our community. I remain focused on working for my constituents as their representative in the State Assembly,” she wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle.
Malliotakis denied that she has been in contact with the National Republican Congressional Committee about a possible run. “There has been no contact with NRCC,” she told the Eagle.
On Monday, a 20-count indictment was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn charging Grimm with mail fraud, wire fraud, false federal tax returns, conspiring to defraud the United States, impeding the Internal Revenue Service, health care fraud, engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring and continuing to employ unauthorized aliens, perjury and obstructing an official proceeding. Grimm allegedly evaded taxes by concealing more than $1 million in sales and wages while running an Upper East Side restaurant, Healthalicious, between 2007 and 2010, prior to his first term in office. Grimm paid his workers, many of them undocumented workers, in cash to evade paying payroll, income, and sales taxes, according to the indictment.
The Wall Street Journal also reported on the Grimm judgeship option. According to the Journal article, the GOP is looking at Malliotakis and state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) as possible candidates to run for the seat.
Meanwhile, Malliotakis is going about her business being a legislator. On April 25, she welcomed John Pandazopoulos, a member of the legislative assembly in the parliament of Victoria in Australia, to her Brooklyn district office.
The two legislators met to discuss issues affecting the global Hellenic community, according to Malliotakis, who is a Greek-American. Assemblyman Pandazopoulos represents Dandenong, a suburb of Melbourne, and was visiting Greek-American legislators in his capacity as president of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association.