Rep. Michael McMahon (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: Sept. 12, 1957, Staten Island .
Home: Staten Island.
Education: NYU., B.A. 1980, NY Law School, J.D. 1985; U. of Heidelberg, A.S. 1982.
Family: Married (Judith); 2 children.
Elected office: NY City Cncl., 2001-08
Professional Career: Counsel, NY St. Assemblymen Eric Vitaliano & Elizabeth Connelly, 1987-2000; Partner, O'Leary, McMahon & Spero, 1993-2008
The new congressman from the 13th District of New York is Michael McMahon, a Democrat who won the seat in 2008 after Republican Rep. Vito Fossella tumbled into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. A drunk-driving arrest in Virginia led to revelations about an extramarital affair and a child born out of wedlock. Three weeks after his arrest, Fossella, a one-time rising GOP star, announced that he would retire.
|Michael McMahon (D-WF)||114,219||(61%)||($1,272,811)|
|Robert Straniere (R)||62,441||(33%)||($162,474)|
|Timothy Cochrane (C)||5,799||(3%)|
|Carmine Morano (Ind)||4,947||(3%)||($51,424)|
|Michael McMahon (D)||11,792||(74%)|
|Stephen Harrison (D)||3,885||(26%)|
A lifelong Staten Islander and self-described moderate, McMahon grew up in Stapleton, the middle child of seven children. His father was as an insurance underwriter, and his mother, a German immigrant, worked as a hotel bookkeeper. While bartending and waiting tables, he earned a degree in political science and history from New York University. He spent two years at the University of Heidelberg in Germany studying to teach German, then returned home to get his law degree at New York Law School. McMahon practiced law as a counsel to two state Assembly members from Staten Island and as a partner at the law firm of O’Leary, McMahon and Spero. While working for the Assembly, McMahon helped write legislation in the early 1990s that would have let Staten Island secede from New York City. He has said that since then, better borough planning and a more attentive mayoral administration under Bloomberg have put the secession question to rest. In 2001, McMahon ran for the New York City Council on the island’s North Shore. He won the Democratic primary by a narrow 170-vote margin but easily won the seat that November. As a councilman, he worked to keep the Fresh Kills dump closed, to increase service for the Staten Island Ferry and to require nurses in all city schools. The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee long viewed McMahon as a promising candidate in the district, but McMahon had resisted their entreaties.
In 2008, after a year of the Fossella scandal—an unending political drama all but gift-wrapped for headline writers at the New York Post—Republicans lost their dominance in Staten Island. After the incumbent announced that he would not seek re-election, McMahon jumped into the primary race, where he faced Brooklyn lawyer Stephen Harrison, the Democratic candidate against Fossella in 2006. The borough’s Democratic and Working Families parties immediately endorsed McMahon, and the DCCC quickly followed suit. Harrison refused to drop his campaign, charging that McMahon was not a true Democrat. But the longtime councilman compiled a long roster of support that included local labor unions, Democrats from the city’s House delegation and both U.S. senators from New York. He cruised to victory by a 3-to-1 margin in the September primary.
The open seat should have portended a competitive race, but a situation that had started out badly for the GOP only got worse. The party’s choice to replace Fossella, retired Wall Street executive Frank Powers, died of a heart attack in June. To replace him, Republicans turned to Robert Straniere, a controversial former assemblyman rejected by much of the GOP establishment because of his questionable business dealings and past battles with other local Republicans. Straniere criticized McMahon for supporting a property-tax increase on the City Council in 2002; McMahon countered that the hike was needed to salvage the city’s finances after the terrorist attacks. With his own party divided over his candidacy, Straniere never had much of a chance against the well-funded McMahon, who outspent Straniere 9-to-1 and picked up endorsements from Bloomberg and Conservative Party Borough President James Molinaro. He won easily, beating Straniere 61% to 33%. He won by wide margins everywhere but in the Republican strongholds on the South Shore, where he ran nearly even with Straniere. He became the first Democrat in 28 years to represent Staten Island.
McMahon was given seats on the Foreign Affairs and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. He had sought a spot on the Transportation panel in order to try to secure federal money to expand ferry service and to construct rail lines on the north and west shores. In his first few months in the House, McMahon was a party-line voter in the House and supported President Obama’s $787 billion economic-stimulus bill. His first bill mandated confidential mental-health screenings for military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.