The borough president of Staten Island, a member of the Conservative Party, is the latest politico to jump on the Mike McMahon bandwagon.
James Molinaro endorsed the Democratic candidate for the congressional seat now held by Republican Representative Vito Fossella in the 13th C.D. on Saturday, during a joint appearance at the Staten Island ferry terminal in St. George.
The endorsement occurred just days after McMahon, who has been a member of the City Council since 2002, resoundingly defeated Bay Ridge lawyer Stephen Harrison in the Democratic primary. The district includes all of Staten Island and part of southwestern Brooklyn.
The seat opened up after Fossella declined to run for re-election in the wake of a DUI arrest, last May, and the revelation that he had a second family in Virginia. Besides McMahon, there are three other candidates vying for the post – Republican Robert Straniere; Carmine Morano, of the Independence Party; and Paul Atanasio, the Conservative Party nominee.
“Mike McMahon has always been there for Staten Island, and now Staten Island needs to be there for him,” said Molinaro, who had previously backed McMahon for his council post.
“Mike has consistently delivered for Staten Island on increased ferry service, a long-term solid waste plan, new parks and libraries, and more nurses for our schools,” Molinaro went on. “I know he’ll bring that same fight for the district to Washington, and that’s why I am endorsing him.”
Asked to comment on the endorsement, McMahon said, “I think what it shows is that I have a record of working across party lines to accomplish things, and I think it’s my record of service and commitment to fighting for the people who elected me that brought the borough president to give me the endorsement.
“He is without question one of the most genuine people I’ve met, in and out of politics,” McMahon continued, “so it means a lot not only to my campaign, but to me personally. We worked together to bring about the growth management task force, which put the clamps on over-development and illegal curb cuts and we worked hard on problems of traffic, especially on the Verrazano Bridge, and we will continue to work together, with Brooklyn’s great Borough President, Marty Markowitz, to have a great partnership between the two boroughs, the local leaders and Washington.”
Some said that the endorsement was just one more blow to Straniere, a former assemblymember who had triumphed in the Republican primary over Staten Island GOP Finance Chair Jamshad Wyne.
“We’re in trouble,” one source within the GOP acknowledged. “The vote is going to get so split up that we’re going to lose the seat.”
“It’s going to be pretty bad,” agreed a Conservative Party insider. “The word on the street is that he’s in debt from the primary, so he has a long way to go.”
The Molinaro endorsement of McMahon may also be indicative, sources suggested, of discontent with the Straniere candidacy among Conservative and Republican power brokers.
Although he has the backing of the GOP in both Brooklyn and Staten Island, elected officials have been slow to come on board; at this point, only Republican Staten Island State Senator Andrew Lanza has expressed support for Straniere, who lost his Assembly seat in 2004 after he lost the primary to a party-backed challenger.
But, Craig Eaton, chairperson of the Kings County GOP, said he was confident that, “Republicans and Conservatives are going to vote for the best candidate. I hope that voters in Brooklyn and Staten Island look at the clear choice of a Republican candidate who has a conservative record, and I hope that Conservative voters wouldn’t just follow the borough president of Staten Island. I still think we’ll succeed in November.”
Straniere agreed. When asked about the predictions of doom that had been made about his campaign, he replied, “You must be talking to the wrong Republicans. It’s a Republican seat, and it’s been a Republican seat for the past 28 years. John McCain is going to sweep the district. I am going to win the race, and James Molinaro is absolutely irrelevant.
“There’s no more disliked elected official on Staten Island,” Straniere went on. “He’s no longer a Conservative. Neither is he a Republican or a liberal Democrat, so I think he must be a know-nothing.”
Asked about his alleged financial woes, Straniere said he had been “outspent 20 to one” in the primary yet had prevailed. “I’m sure as heck we’re going to be outspent (in the general election),” he went on. But, he said, “No one will out-campaign us or get more votes than me. My campaign’s financial strength was enough to win the primary and it will be enough to win the general. It’s not how much money you have to spend. It’s how smart you are in the way you spend it.”