Republican Dan Donovan is now officially our new Congressman from the 11th district, after taking the oath of office from John Boehner on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Donovan fills a set that had been left empty since January by the resignation of Republican Michael Grimm, who stepped down after he pleaded guilty to one count of federal tax evasion. Grimm won reelection last fall despite the indictments then looming over him, but stepped down shortly afterward, setting up the special election between Donovan and Democratic City Councilmember Vincent Gentile. Donovan easily won the majority Republican district which consists of the entire borough of Staten Island, plus just enough of southern Brooklyn to make up a full congressional district.
Donovan gained national notoriety in his last job as Staten Island DA when the grand jury he seated failed to indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed black man using a banned choke hold during an arrest on the Island last summer. The killing was one of a series of police killings of black men across the nation that have led to demonstrations and civil unrest, including the fatal shooting of two New York City police officers in December of 2014.
In spite of the controversy, Donovan’s involvement with the case never became an issue in the campaign. It was not seen by Democrats as a vote-winner in conservative Staten Island, where the bulk of voters in the district live. Staten Island is also home to many New York City police officers, firefighters and other municipal workers who favored Donovan.
Donovan has announced that his first priority in his new job will be to take action on the James Zadroga 9/11 bill, which provides funding for treatment of first responders injured or made ill in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and is up for renewal this year. Bay Ridge was profoundly affected by the 9/11 attacks and Donovan’s support for the bill will have strong support on both sides of the bridge.
Other issues that are a high priority for Ridgeites will not probably be getting much backing from Donovan however.
When it comes to raising the minimum wage, Donovan seemed clueless during a debate with Gentile, unable to name the existing minimum wage and answering instead with vague, pro-business bromides. Donovan has also been missing on other issues of economic and social justice such as equal pay for women, marriage equality and campaign finance reform. He has also vowed to repeal Obamacare.
During the brief campaign Donovan, barely set foot in Bay Ridge, stopping by for one debate before going AWOL from the remaining debates, and only canvassing here once, the day before the election.