Disgraced Ex-Congressman Vito Fossella Pulls A Fast One

05/20/2010 01:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's always hard to be rejected, but imagine how it'd feel to run for Congress and then have your party spurn you for Vito Fossella.

Vito Fossella would be the former Staten Island Congressman who resigned after a drunk driving arrest in Virginia led to the discovery of what the tabloids called "a second family." Besides the wife and kids in the home district, Fossella had a lover and daughter stashed away in the Washington suburbs, where the neighbors assumed he was just another nice-looking, frequently-out-of-town husband.

And so, Fossella slunk off in disgrace. Democrat Mike McMahon won the seat, eliminating the last Republican toehold in the New York City congressional delegation. As the GOP geared up to try for a comeback this fall, two candidates raised their hands: Michael Grimm a former FBI agent and Michael Allegretti, who the tabloids like to call a "local fuel oil heir."

Both Grimm and Allegretti are regarded as not-ridiculous candidates. They've raised some money. Grimm has the backing of Rudy Giuliani and long-time Staten Island power Guy Molinari. Allegretti has substantial ties to the community due to that fuel oil business. Hey, everybody needs fuel oil.

Fossella, meanwhile, had wandered off to Wall Street where he was working in the always-endearing hedge fund business. There were rumors that he was thinking about trying to regain his seat, but they were generally dismissed as ridiculous. Wishful thinking from the older pols who had always regarded Vito as a son. A son, as it turned out, with some flaws when it came to fidelity and driver safety.

Then - whoops. The executive committee of the Staten Island Republican party met to discuss the nomination. They heard from Grimm and Allegretti, who then left them to their deliberations. And then the committee voted to endorse Vito Fossella. By a whopping 23-4 margin.

"I was completely shocked," said Annette Battista, a 75-year-old GOP stalwart who cast one of the four "no" votes. "Vito's been on television, and every time somebody says, 'We hear rumors that you're going to run,' he would look right in the camera and say, 'No, that's not true,'" she said.

Battista also has problems with Fossella's judgment, citing his drunk-as-a-skunk arrest in Virginia. "Instead of calling his chief of staff to bail him out, he called his girlfriend, which was the wrong move," she said.

This is all far from a done deal - if Fossella does actually intend to run, there is bound to be a big, nasty primary. The ex-Congressman, who served a very brief jail term for the drunk-driving incident, has never acknowledged he was guilty of having anything more than two drinks. But few people have done really well running on a The Breathalyzer Was Faulty platform. And his family, which has mercifully been left alone lately, will be back on full display. Will wife Mary Pat stand by her man? Would Fossella's Virginia family like to do a guest appearance on Larry King or The View?

"If Fossella wants to stay in this thing, we're ready," Molinari said. "Michael (Grimm) is a Marine. I'm a Marine. So let's go."

Molinari believes Fossella's apparently ample closet contains more skeletons than a medical school. "There's more information coming out about Fossella," he promised.

The 13th CD is one of the few Congressional districts in the state of New York - and the only one in the city - where the Republicans are strong. So all this has to be great news for McMahon, whose back-and-forthing on health care reform didn't endear him to any side in the debate.

It's hard to see what unmet need the return of Vito Fossella would fill. He was an extremely mediocre legislator, and Lord knows New York already has an ample supply of those. His ordeal doesn't seem to have left him a whole lot deeper. Asked in a recent TV interview what he'd learned from all this, Fossella said he had discovered one should: "Do the right thing when you can."

Give that man a nomination.