President Donald Trump has backed Rep. Dan Donovan over former Rep. Michael G. Grimm in a heated New York Republican primary, despite the latter casting himself as the pro-Trump candidate backed by the president’s former advisers.
“There is no one better to represent the people of N.Y. and Staten Island (a place I know very well) than @RepDanDonovan, who is strong on Borders & Crime, loves our Military & our Vets, voted for Tax Cuts and is helping me to Make America Great Again,” the president tweeted Wednesday night. “Dan has my full endorsement!”
Donovan, who represents the Staten Island-based 11th District, actually voted against the GOP tax overhaul in November, joining other New Yorkers who believed the bill would negatively affect their state.
Trump put out a second tweet, saying, “Very importantly, @RepDanDonovan will win for the Republicans in November…and his opponent will not. Remember Alabama. We can’t take any chances on losing to a Nancy Pelosi controlled Democrat!”
The Alabama reference was a nod to December’s special Senate election in which Democrat Doug Jones scored a surprise victory in a traditionally Republican state. Jones’ victory was due in part to a flawed GOP nominee, former judge Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual assault and misconduct. Trump originally backed the appointed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in the GOP primary, but later encouraged voters to support Moore even after the allegations against him were made public.
Trump’s Wednesday night tweets came one week after he was joined by Donovan and two other GOP congressmen during a visit to New York.
Grimm served two terms in the House before resigning in January 2015 after he was indicted for tax evasion, hiring undocumented workers, and committing perjury under oath. Donovan won a special election to succeed him.
While Trump did not specifically say why he thought Grimm was unelectable, he could have been referring to Grimm’s time behind bars — he served eight months in prison for tax fraud.
The presidential endorsement could boost Donovan ahead of the June 26 primary. In April, Donovan was added to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s new program protecting incumbents facing primary challenges.
Grimm had been sharply critical of Donovan, accusing him of not sufficiently supporting Trump. Grimm was backed by former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon (although he distanced himself from the latter following Bannon’s fallout with Trump).
“All the endorsements in the world can’t change the facts: Donovan has failed to pass even one substantive bill into law, and has voted against President Trump every time it’s mattered – from failing to repeal Obamacare, to banning sanctuary cities, and even against tax cuts,” Grimm said in a statement Wednesday in response to Trump’s tweets.
Donovan’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Republican Main Street Partnership, a group supporting the “governing wing” of the GOP, was invested in the race on Donovan’s behalf and lauded the presidential endorsement.
“It’s no surprise President Trump is supporting Dan Donovan, a lifelong public servant and true champion for New York families, over a convicted criminal whose candidacy is a gift to Nancy Pelosi,” Sarah Chamberlain, Main Street’s president, said in a statement.
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