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Race for 13th takes new turns - Straniere turns down judgeship to run

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There’s never a dull moment in the race to succeed Vito Fossella in Congress.

Approximately four months after the disgraced representative – who admitted to having a mistress and love child in Virginia – said he would not run for reelection, the roster of candidates competing for the seat in the 13th Congressional District, which includes all of Staten Island and a swath of southwestern Brooklyn, continues to morph.

Most recently, on Monday night, the Republican candidate, former Assemblymember Robert Straniere, was offered a judgeship nomination by the Republican Party as part of what some observes posit may have been a last-ditch effort to reinsert Fossella into the race, flying in the face of the congressman’s recent assertions that he is “not a candidate for Congress.”

But, said Straniere, he isn’t interested in being a judge. “I don’t know where it came from,” he told this paper. “I’m the Republican candidate for congress.”

In addition, over the weekend, erstwhile Conservative Party candidate Paul Atanasio exited the race, to be replaced by Brooklyn community activist Timothy Cochrane, who expressed enthusiasm about his candidacy, despite his underdog status.

The other candidates in the race are Democratic City Councilmember Michael McMahon and Independence Party standard-bearer Carmine Morano.

“I’m very excited,” Cochrane said. “I had put my name out there early on, looking for the Republican nod, so when this opportunity came up, I jumped at it.

“Everyone says this will be a shoo-in for McMahon,” Cochrane added. “I don’t believe it. I think the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn deserve someone who’s a credible guy, and I’m happy to step forward and serve. I know I’m coming late to the game, but I think the last thing people want to do is send another liberal Democrat to Washington to support Nancy Pelosi. If nothing else, people are going to hear a guy like Tim Cochrane getting out there, and saying what they’d like to say.”

In the meantime, McMahon’s candidacy continues to move full steam ahead. Most recently, he received the endorsement of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, now an independent, who ran for his post as a Republican. He also has been endorsed by Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro, a Conservative.

“Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn need a strong voice in Congress to get results in transportation, health care and the economy,” said Bloomberg, noting, “During the last seven years, Mike and I worked together to deliver just those kind of results: increasing ferry service, developing a workable solid waste plan after decades of stagnation, holding the line on government spending, and saving surpluses for tougher times like the ones we’re in now. The 13th C.D. needs a proven leader like Mike to fight for results in Washington.”

Bloomberg’s endorsement means a lot, said McMahon. “He’s been an excellent mayor. He’s also a world-respected businessman, so his endorsement speaks volumes to his belief that I will go to Washington and do a good job for the people of Brooklyn and Staten Island on a broad range of issues, including the economy,” McMahon noted.

In addition, McMahon said that Bloomberg’s endorsement is “another element that shows I can work with people in my own party and people from other parties.”

But, Straniere said that the mayor’s endorsement of McMahon was “totally expected. McMahon voted for every tax increase that Bloomberg has suggested. Also, his sister-in-law is a deputy mayor, so why is this a surprise?”

Straniere also said he wasn’t losing sleep over the fact that the Conservative Party opted to run another candidate rather than endorse him. “We like to get as many endorsements as we can,” he noted, “but it makes no difference. The history of the district is that candidates have always won on the Republican line alone. I’m even more confident of victory,” he added.

His confidence was not reflected in the most recent assessment of the race by the non-partisan Congressional Quarterly. Whereas, in the past, the seat was considered “safe Republican,” it now is rated “Democrat favored.”

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