New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment trial a week away; debate night Trump mocks Booker over suspended presidential campaign Thousands take to New York streets in solidarity after anti-Semitic attacks MORE (D) offered up some faint praise on Monday for Republican Daniel DonovanDaniel (Dan) Michael DonovanThe Hill's Morning Report — Exploding immigration controversy vexes Washington Progressive group targets GOP moderates on immigration NY GOP House hopeful: No nude photos MORE, the Staten Island prosecutor who will run in the special election to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).

“I think if [Donovan] does prevail he will certainly be an improvement over his predecessor,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Observer.

Grimm resigned earlier this year after pleading guilty to one count of tax evasion. Grimm coasted to reelection in the Staten Island district in 2014, despite a 20-count indictment hanging over his head at the time.


De Blasio said he’d back whichever Democrat is selected as the party's candidate for Grimm’s former House seat, but added that he has a good working relationship with Donovan, the prosecutor at the center of the investigation into the death of Eric Garner.

“I will support the Democratic nominee,” de Blasio said. “But that being said, in my previous personal work with the district attorney, it’s been respectful and professional for sure.”

Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-N.Y.) and former Rep. Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.) are the two top Democrats considering a run for the open seat.

Republicans, meanwhile, are rapidly coalescing around Donovan. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and John Antoniello, the chairman of the Staten Island Republican Party, have pushed Donovan to run.

Over the weekend, the Staten Island Republican Party officially backed Donovan as its candidate. On Monday, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) said he would “absolutely” support the Staten Island prosecutor.

“Dan Donovan's a good friend, he's honest, he's really capable, he's a strong guy,” King said, according to Staten Island Live.

Democrats could try to make Donovan’s handling of the racially charged Garner case an issue in the special election.

 Donovan has faced criticism because a grand jury decided not to indict a New York police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the death of Garner, an unarmed black man who died after Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold. 
The decision provoked protests across the country.

The Garner case has also factored into the icy relationship between de Blasio and the New York Police Department. Some have accused de Blasio of stoking anti-police sentiment.

That charge was given extra potency after two NYPD officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were shot dead late last year in an attack that was apparently motivated by the police killings of Garner and another black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo.

Strategists interviewed by The Hill say Staten Island is among the most pro-police districts in New York, and any attacks by Democrats against Donovan over the Garner case could backfire.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday signaled the party isn’t interested in litigating the Garner case in the special election, at least for now. On Friday, the DCCC sought to frame Donovan’s announcement that he’d run for Grimm’s seat against the backdrop of the Republican majority in an unpopular Congress.

“The competition for Republican candidates in this district is already about one thing and one thing only: which candidate do Speaker Boehner and his Republicans in Congress like more,” DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in a statement. “If Republicans in Congress like the candidate, it’s pretty clear to voters in Staten Island and Brooklyn that they’ll get the same broken special interest politics that sells out the middle class.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) will likely declare a special election in the near future. The election would take place between 70 to 80 days later, possibly as soon as March.