Transportation, Sandy relief top Donovan’s agenda
Staten Island DA easily wins election to Congress
Congressman-elect Daniel Donovan, who won a decisive victory over City Councilmember Vincent Gentile in the special election in the 11th Congressional District (Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) Tuesday night, vowed to get to work immediately on issues such as transportation and Superstorm Sandy relief.
Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney, told jubilant supporters at his victory party at the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island that he is looking forward to serving the people of the district.
“It’s been two-and-a-half years since Superstorm Sandy, and I know we all remember it like it was yesterday. It has been a gross failure of our government that people are still not back in their homes. Enough of this is enough. I will fight to reform FEMA and the Flood Insurance Program so that people can afford to stay in their homes and our district will never have to go through the process the same way again if God forbid we have another storm,” Donovan said.
Portions of the congressional district suffered significant damage in Superstorm Sandy, which hit on Oct. 29, 2012.
Donovan also promised to fight for better transportation.
“Right here at home we need to get our fair share of funding from Washington to finally improve transportation options for the people of Staten Island and south Brooklyn who have the longest commute in America,” the newly elected congressman said.
Donovan will likely be officially sworn into office next week, his campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email on Wednesday morning.
Donovan, a Republican, handily defeated Gentile, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, in the May 5 special election.
As of Wednesday morning, with nearly 100 percent of the votes counted, Donovan had 58.7 percent of the vote total to Gentile’s 39.4 percent. Green Party candidate James Lane trailed far behind with just 1.3 percent of the vote.
Gentile, however, earned more votes in the Brooklyn portion of the district. In fact, the Brooklyn results were almost a mirror reflection of the district-wide results. Gentile earned 60.6 percent of the vote on this side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Donovan’s 37.9 percent.
The election had a low turnout with only 10.6 percent of the district’s voters coming to the polls.
Donovan, Gentile and Lane were all running in the special election to succeed former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican who represented the 11th Congressional District for four years until he resigned from office on Jan. 5 after pleading guilty to tax fraud.
A vast majority of the district’s voters, approximately two-thirds, live on Staten Island. The district crosses the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to take in parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst but Brooklyn makes up only about one third of the congressional district.
On the campaign trail in Dyker Heights on Monday, the day before the election, Donovan vowed to provide full representation and services to Brooklyn constituents and said the borough will not be treated like a step-sister to Staten Island.
“We’re going to have a real presence here,” he told the Eagle, adding that he would also open a district office in Brooklyn.
Gentile’s strong showing in Brooklyn is leading to all sorts of speculation about his political future. There have been rumors that Gentile, who is term-limited and will have to leave the City Council when his current term is up in 2017, is in line to become a judge or will possibly be offered a high-profile job in the de Blasio administration.
The Staten Island Advance reported that Gentile isn’t ruling out another run for Congress. Donovan, who technically is filling out the remainder of Grimm’s term in office, will have to run for re-election in 2016, a presidential election year.
Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), stated that the party will be ready.
“The general election will be a much more positive climate for Democrats up and down the ticket in New York, particularly if Hillary Clinton leads thecharge, and we are confident that Dan Donovan will simply be a seat warmer,” he said in a statement.
Curiously, the Eric Garner case, which had attracted nationwide attention, was not a factor in the election. Garner, a Staten Islander, died from an apparent chokehold while in police custody last summer. Donovan, as Staten Island district attorney, presented the case to the grand jury. In a controversial decision, the grand jury opted not to indict the police officer.
In addition to Sandy relief and transportation, Donovan mentioned taxes and jobs in his victory speech.
“We need to lower taxes on the middle class. Government is nickeling and diming people to death,” he said. “We need to reduce the burdensome regulations that are stifling job growth.”
That was music to the ears of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business group that endorsed Donovan.
Rob Engstrom, national political director for the chamber, issued a statement in the wake of Donovan’s big win.
“Dan brings a record of fighting for the interests of the district, as well as common-sense solutions to get our economy back on track in Washington,” Engstrom stated.
Richardson Wins Assembly Race
In other election news, Working Families Party candidate Diana Richardson won the special election in the 43rd Assembly District (Crown Heights) Tuesdaynight, defeating three other candidates. Richardson earned 50.9 percent of the vote total.
Karim Camara, who had represented the district, resigned from the Assembly to become executive director of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services.
The Associated Press reported that despite the district’s location in heavily Democratic Brooklyn, there was no Democratic line on the ballot because the candidate who was chosen by the party did not file the required paperwork on time.
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