A political nobody who has only voted once in his life came out swinging against freshman Rep. Michael Grimm, announcing last Thursday his candidacy to represent Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights and calling the incumbent a “mouthpiece” for the Republican elite.
Alex Borgognone, 30, of Staten Island, said that he’s challenging Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) because the Tea Party favorite has failed to create any jobs, and because he backed a controversial GOP budget plan that would have all but ended Social Security and Medicare.
“Michael Grimm hasn’t provided any leadership for the community,” Borgognone said. “He’s got the wrong priorities — he’s got an agenda to end Medicare and Social Security.”
Grimm has had a high-profile first year in Congress. He co-sponsored 19 bills and has been a constant presence on cable talk shows, and a critic of the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill.
He also has fought to keep the Army Corps of Engineers at its home in Fort Hamilton, tacking language onto an appropriations bill to make it illegal for the fort’s biggest tenants to pull up stakes for tonier digs in Manhattan.
But Borgognone blasted the incumbent, calling him out for spending more time on TV than he does creating jobs.
“People are looking for common-sense solutions,” said Borgognone. “We don’t need a mouthpiece for the party bosses in Washington anymore.”
Borgognone, who was born in Bensonhurst and has lived on Staten Island for the past 21 years, co-owned the Little Cupcake Bakeshop on Third Avenue between 91st and 92nd streets. Since then, the former Republican — who admitted to only ever voting once in his life and referred to himself as a “novice” several times in the course of a 20-minute phone interview — has owned and run a chi-chi Italian restaurant in the Bronx.
“I have no political experience. I am a total novice,” he said. “My only experience is in business, and I think that’s where I would be helpful. What we do best in business is solve problems.”
But Borgognone would not say how he planned to create jobs and declined to comment on his stance on social issues, saying he would roll out his plan later.
Democratic donors appear to be taking the same “wait and see” approach.
Borgognone has not reported his campaign funds — though he claims to have raised around $30,000 at a fundraiser earlier this month. Meanwhile, Grimm had $629,141 cash on hand as of the end of September and raised more than $800,000 in the last year — nearly $500,000 of it from political action committees.
The announcement broke the silence among Democrats over who would stand up to Grimm — though several party hacks said that they had never heard of this newcomer, and doubted his chances.
Democrats — including Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and Mark Murphy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio — have been waiting to see if former Rep. Mike McMahon will run.
Grimm won McMahon’s seat in a tight 51-48.5 vote last year, riding a Tea Party wave of discontent.
McMahon, now a corporate and governmental affairs lawyer in Manhattan — who still has $27,000 in campaign treasury — declined to comment on his plans for the future.
But Borgognone is not waiting for his turn.
“I don’t think [McMahon] has dibbs whatsoever,” said Bob Olivari, Borgognone’s campaign adviser. “Waiting any longer than this puts you behind the eight-ball. If everyone sits around for McMahon and he decides not to run, we have no candidate.”
Grimm didn’t return a call, but issued a statement to rebuff Borgognone’s line of attack.
“These typical Democratic scare tactics may work in the Bronx, but they will not work on the seniors here in Brooklyn,” the statement said. “My constituents already know that I am fighting everyday to preserve Medicare and Social Security, so that current and future seniors will never be without these important benefits.”
Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at @dsmacleod.