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Ridge rivals come out swinging • Brooklyn Paper

Ridge rivals come out swinging

Mike McMahon, seen here campaigning in Brooklyn on Sunday, won big.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

Mike McMahon, 11,792 (74%)
Steve Harrison, 3,885 (26%)

Democratic primary, 13th Congressional District, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst

Robert Straniere, 3,617 (58%)
Jim Wyne, 2,539 (42%)

Republican primary, 13th Congressional District, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst

Voters in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst had barely finished casting their ballots in Tuesday’s congressional primary when the newly minted candidates — Councilman Mike McMahon (D–Staten Island) and former Assemblyman Bob Straniere (R-Staten Island) — started sinking their teeth into each other.

Straniere, a former 12-term Staten Island assemblyman and currently a Manhattan hot dog restaurateur, struck first. Before he’d even officially vanquished Jim Wyne in the GOP contest, Straniere’s camp issued a statement lashing McMahon and his party’s presidential ticket.

“The [Barack] Obama-[Joe] Biden-McMahon ticket promises more taxes, more government and an inexperienced group of liberals to run our nation,” Straniere said.

Before midnight, Team McMahon hit back with a statement that highlighted Straniere’s vulnerabilities.

“Straniere’s campaign heads into the general election low on resources and local support,” the statement said. It also quoted several GOP officials as bashing Straniere, who had became an outsider in his own party and, as an incumbent assemblyman, had lost a primary in 2004.

McMahon handily won his race against Bay Ridge attorney Steve Harrison for the Democratic nomination to succeed scandal-tarred Rep. Vito Fossella. The well-funded McMahon, who enjoyed the endorsement of Sen. Clinton, Gov. Paterson and former Mayor Koch, netted 75 percent of the vote and even won in the Brooklyn third of the district in Harrison’s base.

In his Bensonhurst field office on 15th Avenue on Tuesday night, McMahon pledged his commitment to his constituents.

“The people of Brooklyn and Staten Island believe they should have someone in Congress that represents them — not the special interests, not the big fat cat corporations,” he told a room full of staffers, volunteers and elected officials.

But Harrison attributed the margin of victory to two other factors.

“The difference came down to money and star power,” he said at his Bay Ridge home, where his supporters and family gathered mournfully. In spite of the loss, he said he would support McMahon in the general election.

The loss was especially bitter for Harrison because he had run in 2006 against Fossella and done better than any previous Democratic challenger to the six-term incumbent. But more candidates — including McMahon — came forward when Fossella decided not to seek re-election in the wake of an arrest for drunk driving in May and a subsequent admission that he had sired a lovechild with a woman not his wife.

McMahon quickly corralled the support of local and national Democrats. He was also backed by many editorial boards, including that of the New York Times, the Staten Island Advance and The Brooklyn Paper.

The Republicans were more divided on picking a successor. Eventually, Frank Powers, an MTA board member and retired Wall Street honcho, garnered the backing of the Republican organizations in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

But he suddenly died in June from a heart attack, which sent the GOP scrambling to find its second replacement. Many prominent elected Republicans declined to run, which allowed Straniere to slip into an almost-empty field and run on a shoestring budget against the wealthy first-time candidate Jim Wyne, a cardiologist and finance chairman of Staten Island’s GOP.

Former Assemblyman Robert Straniere went after his Democratic rival.
The Brooklyn Paper / Alex Alvarez

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