Representative Vito Fossella (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn, NY) was arrested last weekend for DWI in northern Virginia, after what was apparently a night out of heavy drinking (he and his buddy got bounced out of at least one bar for being excessively drunk). In the publicity after the arrest, it came out that he had a 3-year old out-of-wedlock daughter with a retired Air Force officer whose house he was heading for when he was arrested. He also has a wife and three children at home in Staten Island. There are questions about possible improprieties in connection with his affair.
Now, a number of people and newspapers are calling for Fossella to resign over the scandal.
Now, as I see it, this is your garden variety personal scandal for a politician. It may well torpedo his reelection chances in November, should it get that far, but I don’t see exactly why they’re calling for his immediate resignation (and not just asking him not to run again). The article points out that if he resigns before July 1, there will be a special election to fill the seat which will garner substantial natioanl attention, and probably require substantial funding from the struggling Republican National Congressional Committee if they want to hold the seat. Staten Island is the only Republican borough in the City, though Brooklyn is heavily Democratic. In any case, if the seat is open, it will be a hard fought race, and probably very close.
So, is what he did so bad as to require his immediate resignation, and if so, why? Is he another Republican moralist hoist on his own petard, or is he just caught up in an excessive media frenzy?
You can’t do a very good job for your constituents running around defending yourself from criminal charges or from a jail cell, while simultaneously dodging questions about possibly misusing taxpayer money to pursue hijinks with the Other Woman, and at the same time dodging a hail of pots and pans from Mrs. Fossella.
His fellow Republicans would probably prefer he quit, rather than serve as another example of bad behavior to embarass the party in an election year. As for re-election chances, odds are that if the scandal didn’t get any worse he could still beat any Democrat in the fall in a district that is mostly Staten Island*. But the GOP probably doesn’t want to take any chances, even in a “safe” district.
*Plenty of Islanders would vote for anyone named Vito.
As Jackmannii suggests, it seems to be mostly the GOP leadership and a few GOP-leaning papers that want Fossella out in a hurry. I’m not sure I understand the reasoning - it’s not like Vitter’s continued presence in the Senate has noticeably hurt the party.
FWIW, it’s not a particularly safe district, without an incumbent to defend the seat: the Cook Political Report says it leans Dem by just a hair.
Given that the GOP has just lost two special elections for seats they’d held forever in IL and LA, if I were them I’d take my chances with Vito. It’s not going to be a good year for the GOP to hold onto vacated seats.
Staten Island is the only Republican borough in the City, though Brooklyn is heavily Democratic.QUOTE]I’m not into question asked in the OP, but would like to know what this sentence means and how it related the OP.
Thanks for reminding of the specific district outlines and demographics. I actually live in Brooklyn and had long, lazily assumed that the so-heavily Republican makeup of the 13th would always overshadow any Democratic leanings.
Here’s the part I don’t get, is the outrage over the mistress, the illegitimate child, or the drunk driving?
I don’t think highly of people who cheat on their spouses, but I don’t feel personally victimized by it, either. Rep. Fosella presumably took a vow to his wife, before God and a company of witnesses, and those are the ones who can feel hurt or betrayed by what happened. The next time he’s up for re-election, I’m sure this would weigh on his character. But marital infidelity does not violate any public trust, and, as far as I know, isn’t illegal.
I’ve got a much bigger problem with his drunk driving. That is illegal, and a damned good way to get somebody killed.
But watch how this plays out over the next few days. I predict everyone will natter on about the infidelity, and the calls for his head (at least in public) will split along party lines. The fact that he put innocent lives at risk will be ignored.
According to Gail Collins in the N.Y. Times, Fosella has been active in promoting the posting of the Ten Commandments in public areas.
I have my doubts that Staten Islanders are ready to elect a Democrat; the seat has been held by Republicans for quite awhile, and I have memories of going door-to-door on S.I. for McGovern in '72, happily seeing him swamp Hubert Humphrey in primary voting only to get stomped on the Island in the general election by Richard Nixon.
For whatever precedent this provides, Islanders did once upon a time vote out a long-term incumbent Congressman enmeshed in scandal. That was Democrat John Murphy in 1980 (he was one of the top figures convicted in the Abscam bribery/influence-peddling case).
I know one named Carmine, but I don’t think he’s interested in running for Congress.
The emphasis on sex over something substantive like drunk driving would be par for the course. Take Jim Bakker. Disappearing tens of millions of dollars his followers had given him, thinking it was earning them a spot in a retirement community at Heritage USA, didn’t bring him down; it was the sex.
I doubt that many Dems of consequence will call for for his head, though. They’ll be content to stand aside and let the GOP shoot as big a hole in its own foot as it can manage. It seems to be doing a good job on its own.