Democrats circle the wagons for freshman Rep. McMahon

And from our Southern Brooklyn bureau…
Photo by Tom Callan

Democratic Party officials are so concerned about the Republican Marine gunning for Rep. Mike McMahon’s Bay Ridge seat that they’ve put the freshman lawmaker in their “candidate protection program.”

Newly minted Republican nominee Michael Grimm is preparing his six-week assault against McMahon — but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is so desperate to keep the reliably Republican Bay Ridge-Staten Island seat in the blue column that it has placed McMahon in the group’s “frontline program” — a listing of 42 at-risk seats nationwide that get extra cash and manpower because incumbents are facing “tougher challenges than normal,” according to a committee spokesman.

Since 2009, the national organization has been working to “lay the groundwork … so that [McMahon is] in the strongest position possible,” the DCCC spokesman added.

So far, the DCCC has made in-kind contributions to McMahon’s campaign amounting to about $500, according to the Federal Election Commission. But the contributions were part of a fundraising drive that directed several affluent political action committees McMahon’s way.

As a result, McMahon has just under $1.1 million on hand to protect his seat, according to campaign filings. About $970,000 of it came from political action committees and other special interest groups with names like “Democrats Win Seats” and “Victory Now.” He’s also received $15,000 from fellow Reps. Anthony Weiner (D–Sheepshead Bay) and Jerry Nadler (D–Red Hook) as well as Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island).

Grimm currently has about $385,000 remaining from his tussle with vanquished GOP rival Michael Allegretti. Only $3,500 came from political action committees, including $500 from the New York State Conservative Party. But now that he’s the nominee against an incumbent that even the Democratic Party sees as weak, more money should flow in.

The money battle is just the first salvos in a six-week war pitting the centrist McMahon against the conservative Grimm, who has portrayed his rival as pawn of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has become a lightning rod for conservatives around the country. Then again, McMahon briefly offended his own party’s faithful earlier this year when he voted against a GOP-reviled health care bill that would have extended coverage to millions. Also, McMahon has staked out right-of-center territory by voting against taxing some Wall Street bonuses and extending unemployment benefits.

Grimm added that McMahon has hurt Bay Ridge residents by voting for a $800-billion “stimulus package” that was pushed by President Obama to jumpstart the national economy. McMahon also voted for the so-called “cap and trade” pollution-control approach which sets national caps on certain emissions and allows companies that remain beneath the cap to sell their excess credits. Like many Republicans, Grimm claims that such an approach “unduly burden small businesses and households” because polluters are likely to pass along to customers the higher costs of adhering to the law.

Grimm has called the construction of the so-called Ground Zero mosque an “affront to decency,” has called for extending all of the Bush tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest two percent of wage-earners, and closing our borders to everyone except a select group of nations that “stand above others as our closest allies.”

McMahon has called those positions out of touch with “mainstream” America. And minutes after the Desert Storm veteran’s primary win, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fired off a statement that he “can’t be trusted.”

“Conflicting stories about his record and his past have come to define Grimm’s campaign and voters deserve answers if he hopes to gain their trust, let alone their vote,” the statement said. “It’s time for Michael Grimm to come clean.”

McMahon took the Bay Ridge district from Republican hands in 2008 after it was revealed that former Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Bay Ridge) had a secret second family in Virginia.

Grimm wants to bring Bay Ridge back into the Republican fold, but is unclear how much support he’ll get from the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Republican National Committee spokesman Parish Braden said his group is backing Grimm as it does all Republican candidates, but he would not say how the group intends to bolster the former FBI agent’s campaign.

“Those decisions are still being made,” Braden said.

Grimm has been endorsed by a few big name Republican players, including former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin and John McCain, though it is unclear whether that support will continue in any tangible way. McCain’s promised fundraiser has yet to be scheduled.

Rep. Mike McMahon — Democrats are worried that he'll lose his seat.
The Brooklyn Paper / Ben Muessig