Replacing Rep. Michael Grimm: Contenders Include Eric Garner DA

PHOTO: Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan participates in a press conference announcing arrests in a child porn investigation on May 21, 2014 in New York.PlayJason DeCrow/AP Photo
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Several New York Republicans are angling to replace the bad boy of Congress now that Rep. Michael Grimm has decided to resign, but the leading candidate appears to be the district attorney whose office failed to convince a grand jury to indict the police officer involved in the controversial death of Eric Garner.

Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. sits atop the Republican list. In a statement, Donovan writes he is “deeply flattered by the enthusiastic expressions of support I have received over the last 12 hours, and I am very seriously considering the race.”

Donovan noted that since Grimm announced his resignation late Monday night, his “phone has been ringing off the hook.”

“I will make an announcement after the due deliberation such an important decision deserves,” Donovan wrote.

One New York State Republican insider believes Donovan has the edge to the nomination after running an effective, though losing, campaign for attorney general in 2010. Republican sources rejected the notion that Donovan will have a tougher campaign since the Eric Garner grand jury on Staten Island failed to indict any of the responding officers. The grand jury's actions triggered large protests in New York City.

Donovan was the prosecutor at the center of the controversial case which will undoubtedly come up in the campaign although Republicans say they believe a special election will be about President Obama’s policies in Washington, not New York City policing policies.

Donovan’s chief competitor is considered to be Nicole Malliotakis, a New York state assemblywoman whose district closely aligns itself with Grimm’s congressional district, including Staten Island and part of Brooklyn.

Malliotakis told ABC News she is considering a run for the seat.

“I’m taking a serious look at it now, now that the seat has been vacated,” Malliotakis said. “I do believe I have an advantage because I represent both Brooklyn and Staten Island now currently so I understand the needs of the community."

Malliotakis said she is “deciding if I can serve my constituents better,” but noted the decision will be left to party leaders to decide who “is in the best position to win the seat.”

Unlike a traditional congressional race, there will not be a primary. Instead the GOP will nominate a candidate at a county convention. That date won’t be decided until after Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially announces a special election to fill the vacancy, which has not happened yet. A special election must take place within 70 to 80 days. While House Speaker John Boehner and the National Republican Congressional Committee will undoubtedly offer their input from Washington, it’s really up to the Staten Island County GOP Committee to interview candidates and select a nominee to face a Democratic challenger.

Two GOP sources acknowledge Malliotakis is still a little green and untested at just 34 years old, but she is considered a dynamic, rising star in the New York state party. She beat an incumbent Democrat in 2010 when she came into the state assembly and said she has support on the Brooklyn side, which tends to be more Democratic leaning. Malliotakis won re-election in November with 73 percent of the vote.

Malliotakis acknowledged her youthfulness, but contended it’s her “generation that is being hit time and time again with high taxes and fees... My generation deserves a seat at the table. Our futures are being mortgaged right now.”

Malliotakis also noted that others her age have been elected to this seat in Congress, citing former Rep. Vito Fossella who was 32 when he was elected and former Rep. Susan Molinari who was 35.

Another possible contender is Andrew Lanza, a state senator representing Staten Island. Lanza hasn’t made his thoughts about entering the race known, but some Republicans believes he may opt against running to protect the GOP’s narrow majority in the State Senate, where they’ve got 32 seats in a 63-seat body – the slimmest of majorities. Lanza did not return a phone call requesting comment.

Democrats thought to be weighing potential candidacies include former U.S. Rep. Mike McMahon, who Grimm knocked off in 2010; and Mike Cusick, a New York State Democratic assemblyman. When asked by former DCCC Chairman Steve Israel to run in 2014, both passed up the opportunity to enter the race against Grimm despite all the baggage he carried.

A source close to McMahon told ABC News he “certainly hasn’t made any decisions” about a run, but he’s “honestly taking a look at it.” The source says the former congressman will take the time over the upcoming New Year’s Day holiday to talk to his family about the decision.

“He enjoyed serving in Congress. He’s taking a look at it, and if it’s right, good for his family and makes sense,” then he’s more likely to jump in. “At this point he’s got to talk to his family first. It’s very early in the process.”

Cusick told ABC News he is “giving it serious consideration” and that he is “taking a look at running” in the special election.

In 2010, Grimm’s unsuccessful primary opponent was businessman Michael Allegretti and although he told ABC News he’s “always considering options,” he said he has “no plans right now to run for the seat.”