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Will’s Watch looks at how Grimm could exit

More candidates rush in to replace Rhoda Jacobs and Rafael Espinal

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Indicted Rep. Michael Grimm says he intends to stay in his re-election race against former Coney Island Councilman Domenic Recchia — and the GOP looks like it’s stuck with him, whether it wants him or not.

Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) was indicted on April 28 by federal prosecutors on charges of tax, wage, insurance, and immigration fraud, as well as perjury, in connection with a Manhattan restaurant he co-owned prior to winning office.

The indictment came down two weeks after the April 14 deadline for Grimm to drop out of the race and allow the GOP to tap another candidate to take his place on the November ballot.

So now, even if the Republican Party could persuade Grimm to step aside, it will have just one way to replace him as the GOP candidate for the Staten Island-to-Gravesend-spanning seat — run him for another office, such as a seat on the state Supreme Court.

“You can’t run for two offices at the same time in New York State, so if they were to nominate him for a judgeship in September, that would allow someone else to seek the Congressional seat,” said leading election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder.

The party could nominate him to run for a seat in the state Senate or Assembly, but judgeships can serve as a convenient way to make an awkward candidate disappear, according to Goldfeder.

“If you want someone off the ballot, and you don’t want them to win, you run them for judge someplace they can’t win,” he said.

Neither getting convicted nor moving out of the state would remove Grimm from the ballot, Goldfeder said. Nothing in the United States Constitution prevents felons from serving in Congress, people can run for the Congressional seats in districts they do not live in because they could move into the district by election day.

Sources suggested Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan and disgraced ex-Rep. Vito Fossella as potential replacements for Grimm. Vito Fossella held Grimm’s seat from 1997 until 2009, when he stepped down after a drunk-driving arrest led to the discovery that he had a secret second family.

Recchia has so far declined to comment on the Grimm charges.

• • •

A fourth candidate has filed to run for the vacant Assembly seat that last belonged to now-Councilman Rafael Espinal (D–Bushwick).

Helal Sheikh, who ran against Espinal for Council, will run for the seat representing Bushwick, Cypress Hills, and parts of East New York.

Sheikh is a Bangladeshi immigrant, and could potentially tap into the growing population of his countrymen along the Cypress Hills-East New York border — many of whom are registered to vote, but have never done so before, according to a source familiar with the district. According to his website, Sheikh is a public school teacher.

Sheikh faces competition in the Assembly race from fellow failed 2013 Espinal opponent Kim Council, as well as perennial candidates Darma Diaz and Cyril Joseph. Most observers expect Espinal’s Council predecessor and mentor Erik Dilan will enter the race as well, though the former Councilman has yet to file. Dilan is an old ally of disgraced Dem boss Vito Lopez, and remains close to the Kings County Democratic Party establishment.

Sheikh suffered in the race against Espinal last year after a television report alleged that a rental property he owned was infested with bugs and rodents — he came in fourth, with fewer than 800 votes.

Sheikh could not be reached for comment.

• • •

Community Board 17 member Victor Jordan has filed to run for the seat of 18-term Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D–Ditmas Park) — who is rumored to be stepping down after this year.

Jordan will face Rodneyse Bichotte, a Democratic district leader — a low-level, unpaid position representing the Assembly district inside the Democratic Party — and L. Rickie Tulloch, an aide to Jacobs who claims to be planning a run with her support.

Jacobs will not confirm or deny whether she is backing Tulloch or leaving office at all.

Jordan could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
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