Grand old party: Panel picks drunk-driving, cheating, love-child-fathering Fossella to win his old seat back

Vito’s shame
Rep. Vito Fossella, who met the press last Friday to apologize for his May 1 drunk-driving arrest, admitted on Thursday that he had a child with the Virginia woman who bailed him out.
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

The already divisive Republican effort to unseat freshman Rep. Mike McMahon took a bizarre turn last week, when a GOP committee on Staten Island nominated none other than Vito Fossella — the congressman who was run out of town after a drunk-driving arrest and subsequent revelations that he had a secret family in Virginia — to represent the party in the fall election.

The executive committee of the Staten Island GOP nominated former Rep. Fossella — the family-values politician who values families so much that he has two of them — to reclaim the seat he left after news of his double life exploded in the wake of a 2008 drunk-driving arrest.

For now, Fossella — who served a five-day sentence after his conviction on drunk driving charges — was still mum as to whether he would enter the race. There are already two declared candidates, Staten Islander Michael Grimm and Brooklynite Michael Allegretti, who are vying to challenge the Democrat McMahon.

The Staten Island committee nomination of Fossella came just one day after the Kings County Republican Party threw its support behind native son Allegretti, whose family owns Bayside Fuel Oil, and who had previously been endorsed by state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge).

Grimm — a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent — has the support of Staten Island Republican power broker Guy Molinari, former Mayor Giuliani, and the Kings County Conservative Party.

Fossella doesn’t have the Staten Island nomination locked up — it will be settled at next week’s county convention, John Friscia, the chairman of the Staten Island GOP, said that Fossella had told him he would “certainly consider it.”

Friscia said that executive committee members had decided on Fossella because “the business of the committee is to select the best candidate to run for the seat.”

One insider thinks that the full convention will ratify the committee nomination.

“It sounds like it’s going to be a coronation,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “And he’ll accept. He’s larger than life and a legend in his own mind.”

The Staten Island GOP move threw the race into turmoil.

Craig Eaton, the chairman of the Kings County Republican Party, said that his group’s nomination of Allegretti is firm.

“We have no intention of leaving him,” Eaton said. “He’s young, articulate and well-educated, and would make a good congressman.”

Molinari was less diplomatic.

“What took place [on Wednesday] was shameful for the Republican Party,” he said.

The move won’t help GOP efforts to reclaim the seat, Molinari added.

“Republican candidates have to work harder to be elected,” he said. “What they did was the height of stupidity. You have two good candidates, and now you slap both of them in the face.”

If some Republicans see Fossella as the party’s savior, that attitude reflects unease with the chances of either declared candidate, said Jonathan Judge, the president of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club.

“There’s great concern about the viability of either Allegretti or Grimm to beat McMahon in November,” Judge said. “Vito Fossella had in the past and apparently continues to have political star power that really mobilizes the electorate, and could knock McMahon out, if voters are willing to forgive his transgressions.”

He’d need a lot of forgiving and forgetting. After all, Democrats still outnumber Republicans three to two in the district, though the GOP did hold the seat for three decades before Fossella’s fall from grace.

Neither Allegretti nor Grimm seemed taken aback by the possibility of a Fossella comeback. “Nothing is different for me,” said Grimm. “I’m staying focused and I’m not going to be distracted by anything.”

Allegretti spoke in a similar vein. “This race has always been about beating Mike McMahon,” he said, “shedding light upon his voting record and putting the people before politics. There are two candidates in the race for the Republican nomination, not three.”

As for McMahon, his spokeswoman said that the congressman would not be commenting till after Thursday’s GOP county convention.

Fossella did not return repeated calls requesting comment.

Here was Rep. Vito Fossella after his arrest for drunk driving — but before reports came out that he had a secret mistress and daughter in Virginia! He later quit his re-election campaign, but now there's talk that he's coming back.

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