Grimm’s fairy tale? GOP candidate ‘too busy’ to debate rival

You would think Michael Grimm would have more courage under fire.

The former Marine battling to be the Republican nominee for Bay Ridge’s congressional seat has ducked out of a debate sponsored by this paper, claiming that he doesn’t have the time.

We offered Grimm 12 timeslots over four days to go head-to-head with rival Republican Michael Allegretti, but Grimm’s people turned down the invitation.

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to make those dates,” Grimm’s campaign manager Aaron Ellis Ringel, who declined to provide Grimm’s busy campaign schedule for those days.

The refusal to debate is surprising, given that the Gulf War veteran has never hesitated to speak his mind before. He gladly talked to reporters after he was endorsed by Sarah Palin and Arizona Sen. John McCain and when news broke that the campaign of incumbent Rep. Mike McMahon (D–Bay Ridge) had put together a list of his “Jewish donors.”

Allegretti, a local small business owner who’s fighting to reduce taxes, increase jobs and fight for energy independence in McMahon’s district, suggested that Grimm is afraid of the verbal dogfight and the hard-hitting questions that this newspaper would ask him.

“I’m sad to hear that he is too busy to debate,” Allegretti said. “The voters deserve more from a man who is looking to be their representative in Congress. But [in a debate], they might get the idea that there is no substance there.”

Ringel fired back, claiming that Grimm’s challenger is “only calling for a slew of debates because his campaign is losing momentum and he has been unable to successfully articulate why people should support him.”

If it happened, our debate would have been the first time Grimm and Allegretti faced off in Brooklyn. Two forums have been held in the Staten Island portion of the 13th congressional district, including one by the Staten Island Tea Party.

Yet Allegretti’s people remember that debate differently. Allegretti accepted the invitation, but Grimm refused to join the conversation, recalled Allegretti campaign spokesman Marco DeSena.

The only time the two have been seen together was at a local candidates night, but that was months ago, before campaign petitions were submitted, political insiders recalled.

The two are scheduled to debate on NY 1 on Sept. 3. They will then go head to head at the polls on Sept. 14. Whoever wins will face McMahon in November.

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