Cuomo must call special election for Grimm seat immediately: lawsuit

Brooklyn Daily
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is violating the U.S. Constitution by refusing to call a special election to fill the House seat left vacant by disgraced Rep. Michael Grimm, a lawsuit alleges.

A Staten Island lawyer is suing the governor for dragging his feet in setting a date to elect a new representative for New York’s 11th Congressional District, saying that according to the Constitution, Cuomo should have issued a Proclamation of Election as soon as Grimm resigned on Jan. 5.

Instead, Cuomo is playing politics and disenfranchising voters in Bay Ridge and the Rock, the attorney said.

“It’s a two-paragraph proclamati­on,” said lawyer Ronald Castorina, who is representing pro bono eight plaintiffs living in the district. “It’s not the most difficult — or involving a very cerebral set of decision making processes — thing to do. You have a constitutional mandate and are 42 days delinquent in your mandate, your duty, your obligation.”

A spokeswoman from the governor’s office acknowledged the suit, but did not comment on allegations the governor was playing politics.

“The governor’s office will review the suit and we are fully aware of our obligations under the law,” said spokeswoman Dani Lever.

The governor has more leeway when to hold special elections for the state legislature, but when it comes to filling federal vacancies, he has to act immediately, according to Castorina.

“Circuit courts have maintained and clarified the law to indicate that the mandate for the governor to call the election is upon vacancy — that’s the triggering event,” he said.

Grimm resigned the seat on Jan. 5, just days after pleading guilty to tax fraud stemming from a business he owned before taking office.

Grimm could face up to three years in prison. The tax fraud allegations were part of a larger, 20-count indictment that also alleged he hired undocumented workers and perjured himself.

The governor is dragging his feet on the election in order to put the Democratic party on a better footing, said Castorina, a Republican who has served as a Staten Island GOP Board of Elections Commissioner. Castorina said that his lawsuit is not politically motivated.

Democrats initially floated Assemblyman Bill Colton (D–Bensonhurst) and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) as contenders against Republican-nominated Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan. Castorina believes Democratics see both Colton and Gentile as weak contenders, and delaying the election would give the party time to find a better nominee.

A delay could also put Donovan in a bind — if Cuomo holds the vote during the general election in November, Donovan will have to choose between running for congress or sailing to reelection as district attorney, Castorina said.

The empty seat leaves 750,000 people in Brooklyn and Staten Island without representation in Washington, Castorina said.

“People have sons or daughters who wants to go to military academy, and it’s budget season — a lot is happening in Washington,” he said. “We’re left to wait with bated breath as to whether or not [Cuomo is] going to call it.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: