Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) is in an awkward spot. The Staten Island Republican, a former FBI official, was indicted this week on 20 federal criminal counts, including impeding the IRS, conspiracy to defraud the United States, perjury, filing false tax returns, mail fraud, wire fraud, health care fraud, and the hiring of undocumented immigrants. What's more, Grimm's alleged campaign-finance irregularities are still facing a federal probe and may yet lead to additional charges.
After posting bail and leaving a New York courthouse earlier this week, the congressman insisted he would be vindicated, but told assembled reporters he still has "an election to win."
Democrats already intended to target Grimm this fall, seeing him as one of the more vulnerable House Republican incumbents, and his 20-count criminal indictment only bolsters Dems' optimism. The Wall Street Journal reports
that local Republicans are scrambling for a solution.
New York Republicans are exploring ways of removing recently indicted U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm from the ballot in a bid to keep control of the only GOP-held congressional seat, people familiar with the matter said. The road to replacing the Staten Island congressman on the ballot is narrow and complicated because the deadline for a challenger to get on the ballot passed earlier in April.... Potential GOP candidates to run in Mr. Grimm's place include state Sen. Andrew Lanza and state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a person familiar with the matter said.
The fact that potential replacements' names are already being floated suggests New York Republicans are fairly serious about replacing Grimm on the ballot, but before they go too far down this road, it's worth appreciating how tricky it would be to force the congressman out.
I won't pretend to be an expert in the nuances of state election law in New York, but Roll Call reported
this week that at this point, with the filing deadline already having passed, there are three options: (1) Grimm can move out of the district; (2) he can seek a judgeship; or (3) Grimm can be convicted of the pending charges.
The third option probably isn't realistic -- the federal criminal justice system just doesn't move this quickly, and even if it did, a convicted felon might have a little trouble at the ballot box.
The second option, however, appears to be getting some attention.
There's simply no way President Obama would nominate Grimm to serve on the federal bench, but the state courts remain a possibility
Staten Island GOP Chairman John Antoniello, a supporter of Mr. Grimm's, said he planned to speak with Mr. Grimm to talk about his options this weekend. "The charges are real," Mr. Antoniello said. But, he added, "I think he has the support of the people." Mr. Antoniello, who nominates Republicans to judgeships, said it was unclear if there would be any openings by September, the earliest Mr. Grimm could be nominated. "Let's say I do agree to that, which I'm not saying I would, there's no judgeships open. There's no judgeships that I know of on the ballot," he said, adding that that could change between now and September.
As a rule, it would seem odd to for a man facing multiple criminal charges to be nominated to serve as a judge, but from a distance, it seems New York Republicans really don't want to lose this seat.
Watch this space.