In a stunning move, the Staten Island Republican Party's executive committee voted to nominate former Rep. Vito Fossella – who declined to run again for his seat in NY-13 after a DWI bust exposed a second family for the married congressman in 2008 – to run against Democratic incumbent Rep. Mike McMahon this fall.
Party sources told POLITICO there only four abstentions to the nomination, which was introduced by Staten Island GOP chairman John Friscia— a close ally of Fossella – despite the fact that the committee had just interviewed the two declared candidates, Michael Grimm and Michael Allegretti.
Several shocked Republicans, none of whom saw the vote coming, contacted POLITICO to describe the move, which was made before an executive committee crowd that included one of Fossella's sisters.
While it's not binding until the full Staten Island GOP votes next week, it's been standard practice for the larger party to follow the lead of the executive committee.
Whether the highly-cautious Fossella actually throws his hat in the ring remains to be seen. But the vote, made by his close allies, makes it difficult for him to play coy about his intentions in the coming days.
The move threw into chaos the nominating process among Republicans, especially since Fossella – who POLITICO first reported last week is again eyeing his old seat – has yet to publicly say what he's thinking.
However, several Republican insiders – both for and against Fossella – noted that the five-term congressman is close with Friscia and the GOP is stacked with his allies, and this couldn't have happened without knowledge.
Fossella couldn't be reached for comment about the vote.
But regardless, Fossella's path would still be complicated if he ran – in addition to the almost-certain resurgence of the ethics outcry about his use of official House travel while courting his mistress, and the fact that he'd still likely face a Republican primary, the crucial Conservative Party third-party line appears to be leaning toward Grimm.
While Staten Island Conservatives haven't tipped their hand yet, Brooklyn's party has already endorsed Grimm – a decision that the state Conservative chairman, Mike Long, said he was comfortable with.
Brooklyn Conservative Chairman Jerry Kassar showed no sign of backing down tonight, saying, "The Brooklyn Conservative Party has endorsed Michael Grimm and he's our candidate for Congress."