The candidates in a tight race to represent Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn in the House of Representatives faced off in a final contentious debate Tuesday night, sparring over who would be more effective in Congress and not shying away from taking shots at each other.
Republican Rep. Michael Grimm and Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia revisited criticisms they had each made in combative earlier debates in the race for the 11th Congressional District at the event hosted by The Advance newspaper and NY-1 at the College of Staten Island.
Recchia repeatedly brought up a federal indictment facing Grimm, who is accused of evading taxes by hiding more than $1 million in sales and wages while running a small Manhattan restaurant. Grimm has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled to start early next year.
Recchia said the legal troubles hampered Grimm.
Grimm's "priority is going to be staying out of jail," Recchia said. He also said Grimm would be "in a minority of one" as Republican leaders would keep their distance.
Grimm said he would continue to work hard. Asked again about his temperament after a January incident in which he threatened a reporter who asked a question he didn't appreciate, Grimm said that he had apologized but that he is "tenacious."
"If we want to get someone that's passive and going to go along to get along then, sure, vote for my opponent," Grimm said.
The two did have agreement in answering one question. Asked about Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Ebola quarantine rules he and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put in place, both candidates said Cuomo had done the right thing.
The guidelines called for a mandatory, three-week quarantine plan for health care workers returning from the countries in West Africa that have the disease. The rules have come under criticism from some advocates for health care workers.
The race is considered one of the more competitive in the country, a chance for Democrats to take a seat in Congress in a year when Republicans are overall expected to increase their majority in the House. Recchia has gotten the support of the national Democratic Party, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the race.
Grimm, 44, is seeking his third term. Recchia, 55, is a former New York City Council member.