- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2014

Once left for dead by many on Capitol Hill amid looming federal charges, embattled Rep. Michael Grimm, New York Republican, is running neck-and-neck with his Democratic challenger in a bid for a third term amid a fusillade of attacks by national Democrats looking to flip the seat.

Political handicappers have moved the race in New York’s 11th District, centered on Staten Island, in Mr. Grimm’s direction in recent weeks and new polls show the Republican with more than a fair chance at retaining his seat despite a 20-count indictment in April on tax and wire fraud charges related to his role in running a Manhattan restaurant before he was elected to Congress.

Mr. Grimm has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence and declined to resign his seat in the wake of the news — and now finds himself leading former Democratic councilman Domenic Recchia among likely voters in a recent Siena College poll, 44 percent to 40 percent.

For Mr. Grimm, the mindset has to be despite all the bad press, I’m still in a good position with less than two months to go, said pollster Steven Greenberg.

“‘I can do a better job of bringing home Republicans and I can increase what I’m doing with conservative or moderate Democrats,’” Mr. Greenberg said. “‘I am going to work my butt off, and I can convince enough voters to support me to return me to Congress.’”

After the poll was released, the non-partisan Cook Political Report moved the race from “lean Democrat” to “toss-up.” A separate internal poll conducted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, reported Monday by the New York Daily News, shows the race in a dead heat.

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Democrats, meanwhile, are flaying Mr. Grimm over the accusations that, among other things, claim he underreported more than $1 million in gross receipts and hundreds of thousands of dollars of employees’ wages to the federal government.

A new cable ad released this week by the DCCC overlays a prosecutor reading the charges with Mr. Grimm’s assertion that he is a “moral man” and voters declaring they will not be supporting him.

“Are you kidding me?” says a man identified as Robert Olivari from West Brighton. “I’ve had enough of this guy.”

The Grimm campaign said Democrats should not be throwing stones, referring to Mr. Recchia’s answering questions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership with a rote response about U.S. jobs while not displaying knowledge of what TPP is — a proposed trade pact with Asian and Latin American nations.

“Even worse, Recchia has the audacity to ask Staten Islanders and Brooklynites for their vote after he voted to raise their property taxes 18.5% and add even more tolls on our bridges,” said a spokesman for the Grimm campaign. “Can you believe this guy?”

Recchia spokeswoman Sarah Weinstein said all that is a smoke screen.

Michael Grimm is desperate and will say and do anything to distract voters from his 20 count federal indictment, including charges of lying under oath, stealing from his own workers, and hiding more than $1 million in profits,” she said.

Mr. Recchia also has bragged about his foreign policy acumen, citing travels to Israel and Italy, trips that also appeal to ethnic voters at home. The Grimm campaign dismisses those trips as mere “vacations.”

Mr. Grimm’s seat is one of precious few opportunities for House Democrats to chip away at Republicans’ solid numbers advantage, with the GOP looking to expand its majority by as many as 10 or 11 seats.

The chairman of House Republicans’ campaign arm said recently that Mr. Grimm appears to be holding his own, though he didn’t swear off the possibility of marshaling National Republican Congressional Committee resources to help him out.

“I’m not a welfare agent here. I mean, I’ve a lot of incumbents that are up three or four or five points and got a million bucks,” said Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon Republican. “Why would I go in, when I’ve got other seats I can go stretch and win?”

Some thought Mr. Grimm might resign his seat soon after the indictment was handed up in April and were wary that it could be an unnecessary distraction in what is shaping up to be a successful year for Republicans. He was actually disinvited from a May NRCC event and threatened to throw a reporter over a balcony following President Obama’s State of the Union address in January.

He did step aside from his position on the House Financial Services Committee after the charges were filed. His trial is scheduled to begin in December.

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