Brooklyn Republicans have joined their Staten Island bedfellows and endorsed dark-horse candidate Francis Powers to retain GOP control of the seat held by outgoing, and disgraced, Rep. Vito Fossella — and at the same time, Democrats are increasingly uniting behind their candidate, Councilman Mike McMahon.
While McMahon was the toast of national Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C. this week, Brooklyn GOP leaders annointed Powers, who is on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and, more important, is an independently wealthy Republican fundraiser.
Though he’s never run for office, he — and his wallet and Rolodex — stepped out of the shadows to win the support of party officials on both side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge after a long list of bigger-name Republicans declined to run.
“He’s the best candidate because he’s a self made businessman,” said Craig Eaton, the Brooklyn GOP chairman, who said he was impressed by the 67-year-old’s rise from a childhood of “very humble means.”
That upbringing allows Powers to “recognize the issues facing the Brooklyn residents of the 13th congressional district,” Eaton said, adding that Powers vowed to give equal treatment to Brooklyn constituents, who have long felt like second-class citizens because they make up only one third of the mostly Staten Island district.
Powers made an even greater pledge to Eaton, vowing to spend $500,000 of his own money and to raise another half million from friends for the campaign.
Despite having the party elder backing, Powers may face a primary from an even darker horse, Jamshad Wynn, a Staten Island doctor.
Wynn’s candidacy has already been rocked by a report in the Staten Island Advance that he spent three years on probation with state health regulators for medical negligence.
Powers could not be reached for comment.
After Fossella announced last month he would not run for re-election because of his drunk-driving arrest and subsequent admission that he had fathered an out-of-wedlock child, there was a deep pool of game contenders to keep the seat in GOP hands.
But Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, County Clerk and former Councilman Steve Fiala and state Sen. Andrew Lanza all passed.
On the Democratic side, both county party bosses have endorsed Councilman Michael McMahon from Staten Island’s north shore — but he, too, will face a primary opponent.
Bay Ridge lawyer Steve Harrison, who got 43 percent of the vote against Fossella in 2006, vows to fight on, even as party leaders coalesced around the popular McMahon.
Harrison, who has been in the race since the day after Election Day, 2006, criticized the front-runner this week for stepping into the race only after the incumbent’s political life was mortally wounded.
“People who didn’t want to step up before now want to step over,” Harrison quipped to The Brooklyn Paper.
He added that the support of the county parties for McMahon does not predetermine the outcome of the primary: “It’s an endorsement, not a nomination.”
But the national Democratic Party has thrown its weight behind McMahon, too, signaling its hope that the term-limited councilman can increase their majority in Congress. This week, McMahon was in Washington to meet with House majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
Staten Island party elders from both the Democratic and Republican side have endorsed candidates in the race for scandal-ridden Rep. Vito Fossella’s seat. With Councilman Michael McMahon getting the Dems’ support and the GOP anointing Frank Powers, this much is certain, the next office holder will interrupt the decades-long string of Italian–Americans representatives for the district. McMahon still face a primary challenge from Bay Ridge lawyer Steve Harrison, but insiders say he’s on a collision course for the wealthy Powers. Here’s how they stack up.
|Frank Powers, Republican||Candidate (party)||Mike McMahon, Democrat|
|Retired MTA board member||Current job||Councilman|
|Lots of money and connections||Pluses||Very popular officeholder|
|“Powers? Never heard of him.”||Minuses||Must mount huge fundraising effort|
|“Powers surge!”||Triumphant use of last name in headline if he wins||“McMahon of the people!”|
|“Powers outage!”||Snickering use of surname in headline if he loses||“It’s not a McMahon’s world!”|