It’s not over ’til the thin Italian sings — and he’s not saying a word.
Embattled Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) is not only fighting his May 1 drunk-driving charge in court, but apparently fighting for re-election.
This week, Fossella kept his constituents and party in limbo while he privately weighed whether to resign or run for re-election in the wake of last Friday’s bombshell admission that he had fathered a child with his Virginia mistress, former Air Force congressional liaison Laura Fay.
“He hasn’t made a decision yet,” said Susan Del Percio, his recently employed crisis manager, whose salary comes from Fossella’s campaign warchest. “He’ll make a decision on his own timetable.”
Friends and GOP insiders said that Fossella is not throwing in the towel.
“I got every indication that he plans to run again,” said Guy Molinari, Fossella’s mentor and former Staten Island borough president.
On the legal front, Fossella is decidedly not giving up the fight.
Despite twice apologizing to constituents for driving with a blood-alcohol level at more than twice the legal limit, Fossella pleaded not guilty, his lawyer, Barry Pollack said.
But an upcoming trial is just one of Fossella’s legal headaches.
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct must investigate Fossella — or explain within 30 days why it is choosing not to. But the committee’s spokesperson declined to discuss what the ethics body has done or will do about Fossella’s arrest or the taxpayer-funded fact-finding tour to France in 2003 where his affair with Fay reportedly began.
And he’s facing another possible legal battle: one with his wife of 18 years. She kept a low profile this week, too, staying cloistered inside her Staten Island home while her husband shuttled between the Capitol and his new quarters above his sister’s Staten Island garage.
Despite the controversies, some of Fossella’s contributors hope he will stay in the race.
“He’s been an excellent congressman and I hope he stays. Period,” said Dick Sabitini of Brooklyn, who contributed $500 to Fossella last year.
And one Staten Island supporter has taken it a step further, using his support for Fossella as a way of promoting his own entertainment empire by offering to donate space in his Manhattan nightclubs for pro-Vito rallies.
“Bill Clinton and Gov. Paterson are perfect examples of how one’s governmental duties should not be judged by his personal mistakes,” said Fossella- and self-promoter John Englebert.
But such support is far from universal.
“He should resign,” said Jeffrey Hyman, a Brooklynite who chipped in $250 to Fossella’s coffers this March. “It’s the drunk driving, which is illegal, and it’s a moral issue of not being faithful to his wife.”
And a new Web site, Vino Fossella.com, is tracking the congressman’s travails.
And there have been many.
Fossella was forced to come clean about his secret life after mounting questions about his drunk-driving arrest in a Washington, DC suburb. When he was pulled over at 12:15 am on May 1, he told police he was en route to seeing his “sick daughter.” That raised eyebrows because at the time, Fossella’s only known family lived on Staten Island.
Eventually, Fossella admitted he has a 3-year-old daughter from his extra-marital affair with Fay.
The congressman is likely to remain in the shadows until his June 27 court date in Virginia for the drunk driving charge, which carries a mandatory five-day sentence.