T he Republican primary election in New York’s 11th Congressional District between incumbent Dan Donovan and his predecessor, Michael Grimm, is shaping up to be a bitter fight — even as Democrats have targeted the seat in hopes of recapturing control of the House of Representatives in the November 2018 midterm elections.

Last week, Grimm qualified for the June 26 primary, gathering signatures of over 3,000 registered voters in the district, while Donovan received the endorsement of the influential New York State AFL-CIO labor union. The seat represents all of Staten Island as well as a portion of Brooklyn, and the Jewish vote could be decisive in determining the outcome.

For Donovan, the only GOP congressman in New York City, it’s all about representing the district he was elected to serve in 2015.

“I believe I have given the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn every reason to reelect me,” Donovan told Mishpacha. “I stood up against the administration, my own party, when it was in their best interest. They sent me down there to be their voice, and every vote that I have cast, every piece of legislation that I have sponsored, is with them and their family and their children in mind.”

Grimm, who bills himself a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, hopes to turn the incumbent’s reelection pitch against him. Citing his opponent’s votes against the Obamacare repeal, the tax reform bill, and an anti-immigration measure banning sanctuary cities, Grimm told Mishpacha, “Donovan has voted against the president down the line for everything that has mattered... [He] has made himself ineffective by alienating himself from the Trump administration.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pledged support to former Bay Ridge resident and Army veteran Max Rose under its “Red to Blue” program. The initiative targets House seats previously considered safe for the GOP, and assists local Democratic candidates with fundraising, organization, and staff. Rose, who is Jewish and served in Afghanistan, raised an impressive $330,000 in the last quarter of 2017. He is one of only 18 Democratic candidates nationwide to receive help under the program.

Grimm was first elected to Congress in 2010, and was reelected twice more, but resigned just after winning the 2014 race and pled guilty to a felony tax evasion charge. Donovan won a special election on May 5, 2015 to fill the seat.

Grimm explained that he was indicted a day or two after the votes were certified, and there was no legal way to remove his name from the ballot. If he had stepped down, a Democrat, Domenic Recchia, would have been elected by default. Grimm still insists he is innocent, and charges that the Obama Justice Department made him a political target.

“I am still not lying today when I say I never deserved to be criminally charged,” he says. “At that point [in 2014], that was me fighting the fight. I said I was going to fight, I did. I lost.”

Donavan is having none of it. “I believed him, I voted for him. And then weeks after we voted for him, he pled guilty. He had lied to us and then he quit. He left us without representation during the last term of Barack Obama’s administration.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 706)