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Special Election Tuesday for Grimm’s Old Seat

     BROOKLYN (CN) – Voters in Staten Island and the southern end of Brooklyn will pick a new U.S. congressman on Tuesday to replace Michael Grimm, a Republican who resigned in January after copping guilty to a federal tax-evasion charge.
     Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan, a Republican, is expected to defeat the Democratic challenger, New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile, in Tuesday’s special election.
     The election comes after U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein warned New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo about his delay in announcing a special election to fill the seat.
     Voters had brought Cuomo to court with claims that Grimm’s resignation disenfranchised the 750,000 New Yorkers in his former district.
     Grimm, 44, resigned in early January after copping to a federal tax-evasion charge for underreporting earnings at his Manhattan health-food restaurant. The former FBI agent and Marine at first denied all charges, then reversed course, pleaded guilty and quit.
     With Donovan prosecuting the charges against him, Grimm claimed that the case was a politically motivated attempt to steal his seat.
     Donovan also headed the grand-jury investigation into police officer Daniel Pantaleo who killed an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, with a fatal chokehold.
     A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, and footage of the killing went viral, inspiring protests linked to similar events in Ferguson, Mo., and other parts of the country.
     As in Ferguson, the Staten Island grand jury voted not to indict Pantaleo.
     In what many called a political move, Donovan did not represent his own office during deliberations to unseal the grand jury’s transcripts during a hearing on Staten Island in March.
     Richmond County Supreme County Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rooney ordered the grand jury’s proceedings be kept private last December, and that decision was upheld on appeal.
     The Legal Aid Society, National Association of Colored People and New York Post were among those fighting to unseal the grand jury’s transcripts.
     Garner, 43, was selling “loosies,” or loose cigarettes, near the Staten Island Ferry when Pantaleo and other officers swarmed him.
     His dying words, “I can’t breath,” a refrain he gasped out at least 11 times, became a rallying cry for protesters across the country.
     When Donovan and Gentile squared off at the end of April in a televised debate, many were askance that Donovan couldn’t answer what the minimum wage was — $7.25. Donovan has since been a no-show for at least two scheduled debates.
     Gentile takes aim at the gaffe on his website, where he also vows to “push back” against “red tape” for Hurricane Sandy relief victims, to fight for higher minimum wages, to close loopholes on companies that send jobs overseas, and to fight terrorists.
     Donovan calls for the same, and seeks a freeze on proposed toll hikes to get in and out of Staten Island, and for an end to what he sees as “out-of-control spending” in Washington that has driven up taxes.
     Cuomo endorsed Gentile last week.
     “I endorse Vinnie for Congress because the people of the 11th District deserve a fighter who will always put people first,” the governor said.
     One Donovan ad campaign highlighted how he was raised by an alcoholic father in a middle-class household, sleeping on his living room couch, and put himself through college.
     “Your family has always been our first priority,” the ad says.
     Gentile, meanwhile, has been seen stumping morning commuters at subway stations in Southern Brooklyn in the run-up to tomorrow’s election.

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