Democratic party leaders from Brooklyn and Staten Island anointed Staten Island Councilman Mike McMahon as their chosen candidate for the cross-Harbor congressional seat that is being vacated by disgraced Rep. Vito Fossella.
McMahon, who will be term-limited out of the council in 2009, emerged from a crowded Democratic pool flooded by contenders from both sides of the Verrazano Bridge after revelations about a drunk-driving arrest, adultery and out-of-wedlock child toppled the Republican Fossella from a seat he has held since 1997.
Staten Island’s Democratic County Committee voted 131-40 in favor of McMahon on Wednesday night — and the councilman told The Brooklyn Paper that Brooklyn Democrat Party boss Vito Lopez, the Bushwick assemblyman, had also agreed to back him. Lopez did not return a deadline call.
But even though he has the support of both county machines, McMahon will face a primary challenge from Steve Harrison, the plucky Bay Ridge lawyer who lost to Fossella in 2006 and told supporters this week that he would fight on. Harrison was not allowed to speak at Wednesday’s meeting until after McMahon had been selected. His supporters stormed out.
McMahon told The Brooklyn Paper that he hoped it wouldn’t get uglier.
“I hope that we can find a way to avoid the primary,” McMahon said. Harrison did not return calls.
The 13th congressional district has taken on added importance as national Democratic officials now believe they can claim the longtime Republican seat in the wake of Fossella’s scandals.
“These are million dollar campaigns, so we’ll immediately set about starting to raise money,” McMahon said.
While he scraps it out with Harrison, Staten Island Republicans were poised to meet on Thursday night to pick their candidate — though leading contenders District Attorney Dan Donovan and County Clerk Stephen Fiala, a former Staten Island councilman, have already declined to run.
Their absence leaves only state Sen. Andrew Lanza and Councilman James Oddo, both of Staten Island, from the original crop of possible Republican candiates.