Former GOP congressman who retired after revealing his second family seeks comeback

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Fossella himself was a Molinari ally who had his crucial support in the 1997 special election to succeed the borough president’s daughter, Susan Molinari, in what was then numbered the 13th Congressional District. Fossella overwhelmingly won the closely-watched general election for this seat, which included all of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, and he never had trouble holding it over the next decade.

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Fossella’s political career began to unravel in May of 2008, though, after he was arrested for drunk driving in Northern Virginia. The media soon reported that Fossella was picked up from jail by a woman who was not his wife, and the married congressman revealed that he had been detained on his way to visit the child they had together.

House Republicans, in the words of the New York Daily News, soon “lost all faith” in Fossella and began casting about for a new candidate. The incumbent decided not to seek re-election, but what followed was a recruiting debacle for Republicans. The still-powerful Molinari tried to lure Fossella back into the race in September with the hopes that the party’s nominee, Robert Straniere, would drop out so the incumbent could claim the nod. The GOP remained stuck with Straniere, though, and Democrat Michael McMahon easily flipped the seat that fall.

Fossella himself pleaded guilty to drunken driving soon after he left Congress and was sentenced to five days in prison, but he very much wanted to retake his old seat from McMahon in 2010. However, Molinari backed FBI agent Mike Grimm for the nomination and was furious when the Staten Island Republican Party’s executive committee endorsed Fossella’s undeclared campaign. What resulted was, in the words of the Staten Island Advance, “the latest Fossella fiasco” that eventually ended with him not running. Grimm went on to defeat a Fossella-backed primary foe on his way to a win over McMahon in that year’s GOP wave.

Fossella still longed to return to Congress, though. In 2012, as Grimm faced corruption allegations, Fossella didn’t rule out a bid against his successor. The next year, as Grimm’s problems intensified, Fossella claimed that “significant people” tried to recruit him to run for what was now numbered as the 11th District.

That promoted an all-hands-on-deck response from everyone who’s pretty much anyone in Staten Island politics, including his old mentor Molinari, who all united in talking down Fossella’s chances. Ultimately, Fossella was not on the ballot, and Grimm was re-elected while under indictment. Grimm resigned in early 2015 soon after pleading guilty to falsifying tax returns at his restaurant, but this time, Fossella claimed he wasn’t interested in running for Congress.

When we last heard from Fossella it was January of 2017, and the former congressman had signed up to host a show for the far-right Newsmax TV where he would talk to Trump voters from swing counties and “sit down for dinner, break bread and engage in organic conversations with American families.” That sounds boring, but maybe Newsmax wouldn’t approve a show where Fossella would sit down for dinner, break bread, and engage in organic conversations with second American families.

Governors

CA-Gov: Former Republican Rep. Doug Ose said Tuesday that he’d compete in the recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom if it makes the ballot, something that Newsom himself has acknowledged is likely to happen.

Ose has had a long career in California politics, but he hasn’t won a race since the early 21st century. Ose was elected to a House seat in the Sacramento area, which was numbered the 3rd District at the time, in 1998 and voluntarily bowed to term limits in 2004, though not before exploring a Senate bid.

Ose later launched a comeback bid in the neighboring 4th District in 2008, but he lost the primary to eventual winner Tom McClintock 53-39. Ose went on to run again in 2014 under the current congressional map against Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in the 7th District, which was very swingy turf at the time, and lost the most expensive House contest of the year by 50.4-49.6.

While Ose cultivated an image as a moderate during his career, he reinvented himself in 2016 as an ardent Trump ally. That new profile didn’t do him much good, though, when Ose decided to run for governor in the 2018 cycle: The former congressman failed to bring in much money and dropped out in a move that was so abrupt, his spokesperson said she had to quickly cancel 50 campaign events.  

IL-Gov: On Monday, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis didn’t rule out challenging Democratic incumbent J.B. Pritzker, saying merely, “You never say never.” The upcoming round of redistricting could leave Davis with an unfavorable seat, which could make a statewide run more appealing.

MA-Gov: Political scientist Danielle Allen on Wednesday told The Horse Race podcast that she expected to decide in June if she’d seek the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. Allen, who would be the first Black woman elected to lead any state, formed an exploratory committee back in December.

MN-Gov: Conspiracy-theory-spreading pillow salesman Mike Lindell finally put us out of our misery when he said he would “absolutely not” run for anything. The My Pillow founder had said in January he was “90 to 95%” likely to seek the GOP nomination, which proves that his products aren’t the only thing full of fluff.

Meanwhile, a few other Republicans are getting name-dropped as potential foes for Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. Local NBC political analyst Brian McClung mentions state House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt as a possibility, but there’s no word yet if he’s interested. Daudt, who served as speaker when the GOP controlled the chamber, spent over a year during the 2018 cycle flirting with a potential bid (he also took some time to mull a run for the 8th Congressional District), but he eventually opted to stay put.

Patrick Coolican of the progressive site The Minnesota Reformer also speculates that freshman Rep. Michelle Fischbach could run, though he acknowledges this talk is “not necessarily by anyone other than yours truly!” Coolican, though, does note that redistricting could end up harming Fischbach, especially if Minnesota loses a House seat, which could convince her to try her luck in a gubernatorial race.

NJ-Gov: Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who is the heavy favorite to claim the Republican nomination in June, has launched his first two TV spots, which the New Jersey Globe says will run on cable. One ad features Ciattarelli talking about his upbringing in the state, while he uses the other to attack Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of the pandemic.

PA-Gov: The Republican firm Susquehanna Polling & Research has released what it calls an “independent” poll of an extremely hypothetical GOP primary scenario between five men who aren’t currently running. It finds former Rep. Lou Barletta, who was Team Red’s 2018 Senate nominee, beating state Sen. Doug Mastriano by 20-11. Rep. Dan Meuser and former U.S. Attorney William McSwain are each at 3%, while former Lt. Gov. Jim Crawley brings up the rear with 2%.

WI-Gov: While Republican Sen. Ron Johnson continues to keep the political world guessing about his re-election plans, he did definitively say Tuesday that he wouldn’t be running for governor. “I have no idea who started that rumor, but if I run for anything, it’s not going to be for governor,” Johnson told a conservative radio host, adding, “So anybody considering governor, you’re not going to have me entering any kind of primary for governor.”

The senator, though, doesn’t need to look very far to find the rumor-monger in question. Johnson himself said, “Never say never,” in 2019 when asked about a possible bid against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, and he didn’t take the time to get around to saying never until now.  

House

GA-10, GA-SoS: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein tweeted Wednesday that some Republicans “expect” GOP Rep. Jody Hice to launch a primary campaign against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who infuriated the far-right when he refused to go along with Donald Trump’s demand to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Georgia. There is no other information yet about Hice’s interest in giving up this heavily Republican seat in east-central Georgia in order to run statewide.

LA-02: The March 20 all-party primary was largely a positive affair until this week, when Troy Carter launched the first negative TV ad of the race against fellow Democratic state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson.

The minute-long spot features three former teachers arguing that Peterson sponsored a 2004 law that resulted in 7,000 New Orleans educators and school employees getting fired after Hurricane Katrina hit the next year, with the commercial’s subjects arguing she did it because “[i]t appears as though her husband was going to be hired in the new school system.”

Reporter Tyler Bridges takes a look at this ad for NOLA.com and writes that several people involved dispute this message. Leslie Jacobs, who was a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at the time, said of Carter’s charges, “The Orleans Parish School Board laid off all teachers summarily because they had no money and no students … Teachers would have lost their jobs even if Karen Carter Peterson had not filed her bill.”

Bridges explains that the law in question was done “to address chronic problems with New Orleans’ school system, which was running out of money because of misspending and corruption and because too many of the schools were failing state standards.” It allowed the Recovery School District, which had been created the previous year, to “take over a handful of failing New Orleans schools.” In 2005, after Katrina devastated the city, a different law passed that let RSD “take over New Orleans’ entire school system,” but Peterson opposed it.

Bridges also notes that the candidate’s husband, Dana Peterson, only took a post as deputy superintendent of the RSD in 2012, well after that 2004 bill became law.

NM-01: Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Wednesday that June 1 would be the date of the special election to succeed former Rep. Deb Haaland, a Democrat who resigned the previous day to become secretary of the interior. This Albuquerque-based seat supported Joe Biden 60-37 last year.

New Mexico state law requires each party’s central committee, rather than primary voters, to pick their candidate: The Democrats’ body is made up of about 180 members, while Republicans put their own membership at 119. A spokesperson for the state Democratic Party told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel that it will select its nominee on March 30; Toulouse Oliver’s statement said that both parties must have their contenders chosen at least 56 days before the special, which would be April 6.

Eight Democrats are currently competing for the nomination:

  • Filmmaker Francisco Fernández
  • Community organizer Selinda Guerrero
  • State Rep. Georgene Louis
  • Attorney Randi McGinn
  • Former gubernatorial legislative director Victor Reyes
  • State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero
  • State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez
  • State Rep. Melanie Stansbury

Reyes recently went up with a TV ad, though there’s no word how much he’s spending to reach this very small electorate.

Seven Republicans are competing here as well, and state Sen. Mark Moores looks like the most prominent candidate by far. Complicating Team Red’s already tough chances, though, is the campaign of independent Aubrey Dunn, who was elected state land commissioner in 2014 as a Republican.

TX-06: Republican Party activist Susan Wright is up with her first TV spot ahead of the May 1 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright, which her team says is airing on Fox. Wright tells the audience that losing her husband “was the darkest day of my life, but I see his light in our family and the values he lived for.” Wright then pledges to “carry on” his conservative legacy in Congress.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: While attorney Maya Wiley unexpectedly failed to qualify for matching funds last month, the city’s Campaign Finance Board announced this week that she had raised enough small donations to receive $1.9 million in public financing.

Two fellow Democrats, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and city Comptroller Scott Stringer, had already qualified, while four others have said that they expect to receive matching funds for the first time at the Board’s April 15 meeting: former White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang.





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