Not everyone is leaving embattled Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) in the cold.
Some groups that have previously endorsed Grimm say they will likely back him this fall despite his recent indictment that threatens his chances of holding onto the already competitive district.
Those supportive of Grimm say they base their decisions on the two-term congressman's voting record and legislation he introduced in Congress. But political observers say those groups are still likely betting on a losing horse.
John Risch, United Transportation Union’s alternative national legislative director, said Grimm’s voting record has a 100 percent approval rate from UTU. The incumbent has crossed party lines to vote for the Disaster Relief Appropriations Bill and against the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act.
“Michael Grimm has been a great friend of ours and we generally stick with our friends,” Risch said.
Their “friend” was indicted last month in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. The 20-count indictment includes perjury, wire fraud, mail fraud and employment of illegal immigrants when he ran Healthalicious, a restaurant in Upper East Side New York. Grimm had settled a lawsuit with two of his former employees who accused him of paying less than the minimum wage.
Columbia University political science professor Gregory Wawro said the indictment puts Grimm’s supporters in a tough position, especially unions.
“If I were a union official, I think I would be worried about that—do I want to endorse someone who looks like he did some shady things with his employees,” Wawro said.
UTU expects to endorse Grimm regardless, Risch said, although the union is currently focused on its endorsees in primary races.
“We are not holding this [Grimm’s endorsement] up because [of] anything that happened outside the arena,” Risch said.
National Defense PAC will “probably” continue endorsing the former Marine as well, said Executive Director Mackie Christenson, because the group concentrates on whether a candidate cares about veteran affairs.
“This hometown fighting they are doing… that’s not our issue,” Christenson said.
Humane Society legislative Fund’s Chief Program and Policy Officer Michael Markarian said the fund is also likely to endorse Grimm again. The group focuses on animal protection issues and Grimm introduced the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act in 2011. Markarian said the congressman is “an active consistent leader” on addressing issues like horse slaughter, puppy mills and shark finning.
Combat Veterans for Congress has already endorsed Grimm this year. Director Rob Simmons said after he talked to Chairman Joseph John that the indictment is not enough for them to withdraw an endorsement first made four years ago, citing there are congressmen who have been convicted still in office.
But Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics said the indictment might be “too much” for Grimm, who was already facing a tough challenge from New York City Councilman Dominic Recchia (D).
“There are people in Congress that [who] have some spotty background. The difference here is Grimm is in a district that is very balanced politically,” Kondik said.
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the umbrella organization of UTU and 15 other labor unions that backed Grimm in 2012, endorsed all Democratic congressional candidates in the state last cycle except for two safe incumbents and Grimm’s then opponent, New York Observer reported. AFL-CIO financially supported Grimm’s campaign this year, but its state office did not comment for this article.
Wawro said it is normal for interest groups to value a candidate’s voting record, but the best predictor of an incumbent’s reelection outcome is whether the candidate is involved in a scandal.
“They may not endorse his opponents, but I can’t believe that they are going to come out as supporters of Grimm,” Wawro said.
He pointed out that Grimm might be “going down to defeat” if he runs out of money, especially in an expensive media market in New York City. According to the Federal Election Commission website, Grimm spent more than $98,000 on advertisement in his 2012 campaign. Kondik said Grimm had been a good fundraiser until indicted.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has essentially cut off funding to Grimm after the indictment, and his campaign manager quit last month because Grimm could not afford the $5,500 monthly salary, New York Daily News reported.
A labor source from a union that backed Grimm in 2012 said they are ready to endorse Recchia, although they had intended to endorse Grimm before the indictment.
“If it looks like he’s not going to win, why would we endorse him?”
National Association of Letter Carriers has already donated $5,000 to Grimm this year.
The association said in a statement that Grimm has supported letter carriers and vice versa, and “the issue of future support will be determined once the legal process runs its course.”
Wawro said he doubts the case would be solved before the election, but either way it is going to hurt Grimm.
“There is a court of public opinion he faces as well as the criminal court,” Wawro said.
This post was updated at 2:05 p.m.