Staten Island, N.Y. – Staten Island Republican Party Chairman John Antoniello after interviewing on Saturday the candidates for the congressional seat vacated by Congressman Michael Grimm in CD11, selected District Attorney Daniel Donovan over Greek American Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, SIive.com has reported. Party bylaws allow the chairman to be the sole determiner of the party candidate in this case. Also present in the interviews were the executive committee members.
Antoniello is considered a supporter for the powerful Conservative Mollinari family of Staten Island. Millinaris are for years the powerbrokers for the Borough and they would prefer an older person to take the congressional seat rather than a 34 year-old Conservative with strong ties to both NY State and national GOP leadership.
Malliotakis held a series of meetings with Republican Party leaders in Washington receiving praise for her talent, dynamism and values. It is not clear if Malliotakis will withdraw he candidacy, following the decision by SI party leader. One surprising event was the support offered to Donovan by a close ally of Malliotakis, State Senator Martin Golden.
Staten Island covers the 75% of the congressional district’s electorate and that is expected to lead to Donovan being the Republican candidate. Antoniello will meet with Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton to discuss their respective nominees. According to SIlive.com, Eaton had indicated that the Republican Party in Brooklyn supported Ms. Malliotakis informally as their candidate. That committee still must hold a vote to formally select their nominee.
“At the end of the day, we felt, the committee felt, overwhelmingly that Dan Donovan would make a better candidate,” Antoniello said to the press after the committee interviews.
He said Donovan’s experience in law enforcement led the committee to select him.
Antoniello said he will meet with Eaton and will formally nominate Donovan as soon as Gov. Andrew Cuomo sets a date for a special election.
Responding to a question, the chairman said there was “no biggest objection to” Malliotakis. “She did extremely well. She made really an excellent presentation, everyone was impressed. I personally think, and from what some other people told me, that … going with Dan [has] a lot to do with his experience of 30-plus years.”
Asked whether that prosecutorial experience translates to legislative prowess, the chairman said he has no doubt the DA would make the transition nicely.
He also cited Donovan’s “integrity and work ethic.” He said he took a “tally, a poll” to gauge the support for the candidates and did not take a formal vote.
Ms. Malliotakis said before the decision that she hoped the full committee would vote for the candidates, instead of leaving it up to the chairman.
She said she has a lot of support from the rank and file members and would like to see a fair, open voting process.
The assemblywoman said before the decision that an executive committee vote would result in Donovan getting the nomination, and said she would hope the whole party would rally behind whomever the candidate is.
“Dan’s a good person; Dan’s a great district attorney,” she said.
While Eaton and the Brooklyn Republicans showed their support for Ms. Malliotakis, “The bottom line is that since we are the largest part of the district, roughly 75 percent, it’s our call,” Antoniello said.
The chairman said he doesn’t expect the controversial Eric Garner case to damage Donovan in a race.
The candidate said he will be discussing as much as he can about the case and what his office’s role was in the investigation, adding that certain details simply won’t be made public, due to the secretive nature of the grand jury process.
The DA said he won’t take a leave of office while running for Congress. He noted that he didn’t take leave when he ran for attorney general in 2010, and that then-Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice ran for Congress in November and did not take a leave of absence.
Donovan, who now has two PACs others created to fund-raise for him, will have to fundraise from scratch for the congressional campaign and cannot use existing campaign funds he has, as campaign laws governing federal races differ from local races.
He would like to see a special election sooner rather than later.
“There’s people that need a voice down in Washington,” he said. “The sooner that happens, the better that would be for Staten Island and Brooklyn.”
Donovan said he delayed formally announcing his candidacy until Friday evening because he thought it inappropriate “to be political in that time” while the city was mourning fallen police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos and MTA Officer Thomas Choi.
He said since no election has been set, he will continue to focus on his work as district attorney.