Frank Powers, who had been selected by Republican power brokers to run for the congressional seat being vacated by disgraced Rep. Vito Fossella, died in his sleep on Sunday. He was 67.
His family said he died of natural causes in his Staten Island home.
The death has thrown the race to succeed Fossella into its natural state: turmoil.
“We’re still in flux,” Craig Eaton, chairman of the Kings County Republican organization, said on Monday morning.
Powers had been selected by GOP leaders in Staten Island and Brooklyn only after a series of higher-profile Republican officeholders had declined the invitation to seek the seat, which Fossella abandoned in the wake of his drunk-driving arrest and subsequent admission that he had fathered a child out of wedlock.
Powers, a GOP fundraiser for years, jumped into the breach, vowing to spend $500,000 of his own money to deny Democrats the seat.
Powers, born in Park Slope and raised in Bay Ridge, was a retired Wall Street executive and a current board member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but he never ran for public office before.
Powers’s campaign had barely gotten off the ground before it became the object of national news bewilderment when his son, Francis M. Powers, announced his own candidacy for the same congressional seat as a Libertarian. A Powers-Powers battle was averted when the Libertarian Party nominated someone else for the race.
Powers, the elder, issued the following statement about the filial showdown — some of the few words he shared with the press during his brief career in public life.
“I’ve tried very hard for many years to help my son,” he said. “Unfortunately, he’s rejected everyone’s help to live a healthy lifestyle. Regardless of whether he wants to run for Congress, I still stand ready to help him move his life in a positive direction.”
Then, in one of his only public positions since becoming the presumptive candidate, he took the publicly unpopular position of fighting to retain the free EZ Pass he and other MTA board members get.
“There’s noting illegal about what we’re doing,” Powers told The Brooklyn Paper in one of his last interviews before he died.
“[Board members] are the eyes and ears of the world when we’re taking public transportation … reporting things and doing things and hopefully making the MTA better,” he said late Thursday afternoon.
Ironically, Powers seldom rode the rails or squeezed into a rush hour bus.
“I don’t particularly ride mass transit that much myself,” he admitted in the same interview.
There is another Republican in the race, Dr. Jamshad Wyne, a cardiologist who is the finance chairman of the Staten Island Republican Party, but party leaders are once again polling their party’s standard-bearers — including Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, Councilman James Oddo and state Sen. Anthony Lanza — to find a stronger candidate.
The Democratic contest is clearer: Councilman Michael McMahon (D–Staten Island) has been endorsed by the local and national Democratic parties. But he’ll face Steve Harrison, a Bay Ridge lawyer who was already running a campaign against Fossella.
©2008 Community News Group
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