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From Bad to Worse in Staten Island

Barely a month after Rep. Vito Fossella (R) announced he would not run for reelection following a drunk-driving arrest and revelations of an extramarital affair, the situation in New York's 13th district has gotten even worse for Republicans following a tragic turn this weekend.

On Sunday, Frank Powers, the retired Wall Street executive who was the GOP's chosen candidate to run for the seat, died in his sleep at the age of 67. His family says he died of natural causes.

Powers' passing has shaken the political world in Staten Island, the only real GOP stronghold in New York City. The 13th is the lone district in the Big Apple currently held by Republicans, and the seat was in real danger of being taken by Democrats -- who are backing City Councilman Michael McMahon -- even before Powers' shocking death. There was even the brief chance that Powers was going to have to run against his own son, Francis M. Powers, who considered seeking the Libertarian Party nomination before that party settled on another candidate.

Much as Republicans might want to spend time mourning Powers and collecting their breath, there simply isn't time. Signatures to get a candidate on the Sept. 9 primary ballot are due by July 10, just two-and-a-half weeks from today. The Staten Island Advance reports that the GOP could file signatures for Powers and then a "committee on vacancies" could convene to replace him with another name. But whose?

Powers became the consensus Republican candidate only after several other big GOP names in the district declined to run. Two of them, state Sen. Andrew Lanza and Councilman James Oddo, both told the Advance yesterday that Powers' death would not make them reconsider their decisions to stay out of the contest.

It's still possible another viable Republican will decide to run, preferably one with a hefty bankroll, since the New York media market is prohibitively expensive and the National Republican Congressional Committee just doesn't have the cash to compete there. At this point, the Staten Island GOP simply has to hope that things can't possibly get any worse. Can they?

By Ben Pershing  |  June 23, 2008; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign  
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