Mike, meet Mike.
Or, Mike, meet Mike.
The way things appear, freshman Democratic Representative Michael McMahon is likely to be facing another Michael in November, as both Michael Allegretti and Michael Grimm have tossed their fedoras into the ring in hopes of snagging the Republican nomination for the seat in the 13th Congressional District, which encompasses all of Staten Island as well as a broad swath of southwestern Brooklyn including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Gravesend and Bensonhurst.
Whoever the GOP candidate is, the race is likely to be a lively one, preceded by a spirited primary that will pit a Brooklyn native with deep roots in the community, Allegretti, against a Gulf War vet who hails from Staten Island, Grimm.
Unlike the vast majority of Brooklyn races, this one isn’t a shoo-in for the Democrat. The seat had been held by the GOP for 30 years until McMahon snagged it in 2008, after the fall from grace of then-incumbent Vito Fossella, whose DWI arrest was followed by the revelation that he had a second family in Virginia.
But, while 2008 may have been the year of the Democrats, the Republicans interested in the seat say that this year there is dissatisfaction with what is going on in Washington, increasing the opening for the GOP candidate, particularly if he can succeed in positioning himself, as both Allegretti and Grimm are trying to do, as not beholding to party machinery.
“I’m an independent conservative,” attested Allegretti. “I believe we have to think for ourselves on the issues, get away from talking points and sound bites.”
Allegretti and Grimm agreed, when asked, that both parties, in Allegretti’s words, “have behaved in a fiscally irresponsible manner. On both sides of the aisle, you see the politics of pandering. Republicans cut taxes but they didn’t cut spending. You have to do both.”
“I make no excuses for the Republican Party,” said Grimm. “They need to step up – man up, the women too – and admit they lost their way. The Republican Party is largely responsible for the massive wave of people during the Obama election looking for something new, and rightfully so.”
Nonetheless, both Grimm and Allegretti contended that Democrats in Washington were missing the boat when it comes to the major concern of Americans. “They are not solving the main issue on everybody’s minds, which is jobs,” Allegretti said. “You can’t just throw a few stimulus dollars at the problem and hope it creates lasting jobs.”
“I believe that, to a large extent, the country is going off the rails, that the current regime is taking us down a very dangerous path,” said Grimm. “There’s a desperate need to create jobs, but it’s not just about economics from a parochial point of view. It’s people who aren’t working, who have to feed their kids, make their car payments, pay their mortgage. Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington is obviously completely out of touch with Third Avenue in Brooklyn.”
He had no kind words forthe incumbent.
“What has McMahon done?” demanded Grimm. “He has a history of politics as usual. He stays on the fence and vacillates till he sees which way the tide is going. In the last year, what has he done to create jobs in the district? I’m running against McMahon because I don’t think he has the leadership. He waited to the last minute to take a position on health care, till his boss, Nancy Pelosi, told him what he could do. We do not need someone whose strings are pulled by the liberal regime.”
Grimm – who also worked as an FBI agent for many years — also pounded hard on the defense drum, stressing “we are at war,” and contending that “the terrorists are taking it to our shores. 9/11 speaks for itself, but have we learned from it? I’d say no. The current administration is not doing all it could to keep us safe.”
Allegretti – a policy advisor for the not-for-profit Climate Group — is claiming broad-based support for his candidacy within the GOP establishment. He had raised $102,000 as of early February, from close to 500 individuals, which he said meant he was supported by rank-and-file Republicans, who want their interests represented, as well as by party leaders such as Kings County Republican Chair Craig Eaton and State Senator Marty Golden.
At his campaign kickoff, Allegretti said, “We had Republicans from almost every Republican club in Staten Island and Brooklyn,” including the Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Club, which has often been at loggerheads with the party leadership.
“How am I going to win the seat if we can’t bring people together?” Allegretti asked. “I want to build a grass roots campaign.”
To that end, he positions himself as “Just a neighborhood kid who is saying, I want to help my community. I want to serve people here.”
Grimm, for his part, said he wanted to stand up for New York. “No one is fighting for New York,” he asserted. “If I want to differentiate myself from McMahon and Allegretti, I’m a fighter. I’ve been a fighter all my life. I’m so tired of New York getting pummeled. We are constantly being taken advantage of.”
McMahon, however, rejected the assertions made by his erstwhile opponents.
“What have I done in my first year?” he asked. “What I promised to do. I have passionately, thoughtfully and earnestly represented the people of Brooklyn and Staten Island, and taken positions on national issues in tune with the people in my district.
“My record speaks for itself,” McMahon continued. “I have paid special attention to building bridges in Brooklyn which, in the last three Republican administrations felt woefully underserved.”
In addition, said McMahon, he had snagged federal funding to rehabilitate local subway stations and to rebuild the Fort Hamilton community center, as well as to have “a domestic terrorism response team” at the fort.He had also, he said, “gotten the administration to double the money available to the victims of 9/11.
“At the same time,” McMahon went on, “I have been a voice of support for the critical financial services industry in New York, which is important to so many people who go to work from Brooklyn and Staten Island, and I’ve voted for a pay-go rule that will responsibly bring down the troubling deficit. I am a strong voice on the Foreign Affairs Committee on the war on terror, and in support of Israel as we face a nuclear threat from Iran.”
The criticisms leveled at him he dismissed. “I know my opponents will throw every possible campaign slogan at me,” he remarked, “but I will defend my record enthusiastically and continue to represent the people who sent me to Washington to represent them.”
As for Grimm’s comment that he was somehow beholding to Nancy Pelosi, McMahon said, “That speaks to my detractor’s amateurishness, because anybody who knows anything knows that there are no passes or anything else in Washington. No one gives me permission to vote any way.”