Rep. Dan Donovan kicked off his reelection campaign with a show of multi-party support Saturday. The Staten Island Republican hosted the state chairmen of the Republican and Conservative parties, the Staten Island chairman of the Reform Party and the Brooklyn chairman of the Conservative Party. (The Staten Island Republican chairman did not attend, but sent a message that he was home with the flu.) Rep. Peter King, NYS Senator Marty Golden, NYS Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis, NYC Council Member Joe Borelli and former Rep. Vito Fossella attended and spoke at the rally. Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo and NYC Council Member Steve Matteo did not attend, but sent messages of support.
Donovan faces a jumbled and contentious primary against his predecessor, former Rep. Michael Grimm. Grimm resigned in early 2015 after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion, and served seven months in federal prison. Donovan was selected by Republican leaders as the party’s nominee in the resulting May 2015 special election, defeating Democratic Council Member Vinnie Gentile, and was elected to a full term in November 2016.
As demonstrated by the attendee list, the Republican Party is mostly behind Donovan. The lone exception, so far, is former Staten Island borough president Guy Molinari. Elderly and infirm and out of elected office since 2001, Molinari is still a presence in Staten Island politics. Among the many Staten Island Republicans he’s supported and nurtured is Dan Donovan, who’s reelection he now opposes.
When first elected to Congress Donovan effusively thanked Molinari, “the man who brought me to the dance.” Donovan described Molinari as “a mentor … a friend … a father figure” and said “I owe everything in my political career to Guy Molinari.” The Molinari-fueled fissure portends a heated, likely personal race between his proteges.
Grimm has cast himself as an adamant Trump supporter who shares a desire to “drain the swamp.” Donovan, a solidly Republican politician, has parted ways with Trump on some issues, most notably the tax bill due to the substantial limitation on deducting state and local taxes and the effort to substantially gut Obamacare. Somewhat paradoxically one of Donovan’s attacks on Grimm is that as a House member he was “too liberal.”