WASHINGTON — Potential candidates eyed a Staten Island congressional seat Tuesday as Republican Rep. Michael Grimm announced his resignation, following a guilty plea on tax evasion charges.
Among the possible candidates is a Staten Island prosecutor who oversaw a case in which a white New York City police officer was cleared in the death of a black man in an apparent chokehold. Two state lawmakers and a former congressman who was unseated by Grimm could also be interested in the open seat.
House Speaker John Boehner called Grimm’s resignation “honorable,” saying Grimm made his decision “with the best interests of his constituents and the institution (of the House) in mind.”
Grimm, a New York Republican, had vowed to stay in Congress as long as he could, even after his guilty plea last week. But he said Monday night that he plans to resign effective Jan. 5.
Grimm said he did not believe he could be fully effective in the new Congress and needed to start the next chapter of his life.
“The events which led to this day did not break my spirit, nor the will of the voters,” Grimm said. “However, I do not believe that I can continue to be 100 percent effective in the next Congress.”
Grimm, 44, of Staten Island, pleaded guilty last week to aiding in the filing of a false tax return related to a Manhattan restaurant he ran before being elected to Congress.
Grimm made national headlines last year after he was captured on camera threatening to throw a reporter off a Capitol balcony following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The threat came after the reporter asked Grimm about an FBI probe into his campaign finances.
The new Congress is scheduled to convene Jan. 6, and Grimm’s presence would have been a distraction for Republicans who will control both the House and the Senate.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the Democratic National Committee had called on Grimm to resign.
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will set the date of the special election and must give between 70 and 80 days’ notice. The scheduling process won’t begin until the state is formerly notified of the vacancy by the U.S. House of Representatives. The candidates would be chosen without a primary by the political parties or by petition.
A Cuomo spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.
At least two prominent Republicans said Tuesday they were considering the race. Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan and state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis were among several potential GOP candidates, with Donovan considered the frontrunner. Donovan was the prosecutor in a case in which a grand jury cleared a white New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner, a black man, after being placed in an apparent chokehold.
Garner’s death touched off nationwide protests and was one of two police killings cited by a gunman who murdered two New York City police officers this month.
Donovan said in a statement Tuesday that he was “deeply flattered by the enthusiastic expressions of support” he has received since Grimm announced his intention to resign, adding that he was “very seriously considering the race.”
Malliotakis said in an interview that she was “looking at the race” and noted that she was the only Republican who has represented both Brooklyn and Staten Island.
“I’ve won races on both sides of the bridge,” she said.
Possible Democratic candidates include state Assemblyman Michael Cusick and former U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon, who lost to Grimm in 2010. Former city council member Domenic Recchia, who lost to Grimm last month, is considered unlikely to run.
Staten Island Democratic Chairman John Gulino said both Cusick and McMahon would be strong candidates in the Staten Island-based district, which Obama carried in 2012.
“Both are gentlemen and both are men of character,” Gulino said.
Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent, was elected to Congress in 2010, scoring an upset win over McMahon, a first-term congressman.
According to the indictment, the tax fraud began in 2007 after Grimm retired from the FBI and began investing in a small Manhattan restaurant called Healthalicious.
The indictment accused him of underreporting more than $1 million in wages and receipts to evade payroll, income and sales taxes, partly by paying immigrant workers, some of them in the country illegally, in cash.
“The congressman fully embraces and accepts his responsibility for his actions,” his lawyer, Stuart N. Kaplan, said in a statement Tuesday, adding that Grimm “shows great humility in moving forward for himself, as well as his constituents, to resign.”
Grimm’s sentencing is scheduled for June 8. Prosecutors said a range of 24 to 30 months in prison would be appropriate, while the defense estimated the appropriate sentence as between 12 and 18 months.
Associated Press writers David Klepper in Albany and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this story.
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