Representative Michael Grimm, the recently re-elected Republican for Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn, has said publicly that he will resign his seat. His resignation goes into effect as of Monday, January 5, 2015. Two weeks ago Grimm pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion. Initially Grimm stated that he would not vacate the seat he had won again, making him the only New York City Republican in the House of Representatives. The local and national press had mocked Grimm for his chutzpah in choosing to run for re-election, even with the tax charges pending, as well as his January?threat to beat up a TV reporter.
This major decision comes after a meeting that Grimm had with Speaker of the House John Boehner. Due to House rules, a member convicted of a crime that could bring a prison sentence of two years or more, should not be part of any committee party meetings nor vote on the floor, unless reelected later. Even though the Republicans now have a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, Grimm could be seen as a liability by dint of his misbehavior. As well, because they have this majority, they would not necessarily need Grimm for votes and clout. In effect, he became expendable to the Republicans.
Grimm had won re-election comfortably, particularly because he was so popular in Staten Island. His seat only covers a small portion of Brooklyn; the other Brooklyn representatives are all Democrats and are Nydia Velazquez, Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke and Jerrold Nadler. Grimm ran against Domenic Recchia of Brooklyn, who ran what has been considered a poor campaign.
Now a special election will be called. Already a few Republicans and Democrats have had their names put forth as possible candidates. One has been Assemblyman Michael Cusick, a Democrat. The Democrats would be grateful to pick up a seat, while Republicans would like to consolidate their hold on the House majority. New York State and New York City are particularly concerned with how local needs will be represented if the seat shifts to the Democrats.
Michael Grimm is not the representative for my Brooklyn neighborhood, but someone hung up five signs for his campaign on the fence of a former gas station located a few minutes southwest of my house. This vacated service station, on a busy corner of Coney Island Avenue and Avenue P, still displays these deep-blue-with-white signs. This now constitutes a fitting tribute to the disgraced and vacating congressman.
Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013). (And hopefully a book about NJ one day, if her publisher gives the green light.)