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« Strategy Memo: Moving On | Blog Home Page | All GOP Hands In MS »

Vito In, Or Out

Conflicting reports about the future of embattled New York Republican Vito Fossella suggest the five-term Congressman either will run for re-election or could resign from office as early as today. Fossella, who was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol a week and a half ago in Virginia and later admitted to a long affair with a woman with whom he fathered a daughter, has maintained through a spokesperson that he has not decided his future yet.

"I got every indication that he plans to run again," Fossella's political mentor, former Rep. Guy Molinari, told the New York Post. "He's not just inclined to run. He plans on running." Molinari said virtually the same thing to the Staten Island Advance. "Congressman Fossella appreciates the support of so many people, including Guy Molinari, but he has not made any decision yet," said a statement from his crisis communicator early Sunday morning. "And he continues to spend time with his family."

The statements came after Republican leaders showed little sympathy for Fossella, with Minority Leader John Boehner telling the New Yorker to make a decision on his future this weekend. And while the public posturing looks bold, Molinari's comments may just be a trial balloon to see if Fossella can stay in office until his term expires at the end of the year. If Fossella is forced out by July 1, New York Governor David Patterson could call a special election to fill the rest of the unexpired term, with the winner likely heavily favored heading into November.

A special election would allow party leaders in New York to select a candidate to face off. Republicans, the Advance writes, are looking at District Attorney Daniel Donovan, State Senator Andrew Lanza and New York City Councilmember James Oddo; Donovan, who took a call from Boehner and NRCC chair Tom Cole last week, appears to be the favorite. Democrats are eying State Senator Diane Savino, Councilmember Michael McMahon and State Assemblyman Michael Cusick, though Councilmember Domenic Recchia and an attorney are already in the race.

Recchia is from Brooklyn, which only contributes a small number of voters to the mostly Staten Island-based district. Conventional wisdom holds that the best candidate for the seat will come from the population base on the island.

National Republicans don't need another special election, especially one in the New York media market, sapping their coffers. The party has already spent millions unsuccessfully defending seats in Louisiana and Illinois, while also spending money in special elections in Ohio and Virginia. The party has spent more than $1.3 million on a Mississippi seat that will be decided tomorrow, as well. But while Democrats have won in increasingly strong Republican districts, Fossella's is marginal, at best, and the opposing party would have a very real chance of picking it off in an open seat contest.