Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn) won re-election Tuesday night despite a federal indictment, defeating Domenic Recchia, a former city councilman on whom national Democrats had spent big in hopes of flipping a traditionally GOP seat.
"They hit me with everything they had. Everything you could imagine," Grimm told cheering supporters in Bloomfield, Staten Island. "But we're here tonight victorious."
Grimm, an ex-Marine and former FBI agent, had 55 percent of the vote to Recchia's 43 percent with 94 percent of precincts reporting.
Grimm ran without support from his national party establishment in the 11th Congressional District, the city's most conservative, which covers Staten Island as well as a sliver of southern Brooklyn, where Recchia is from.
Democrats tried to keep voters' focus on Grimm's indictment, but many Staten Islanders gave him credit for strong work for constituents, especially after superstorm Sandy, and shrugged off the criminal accusations.
"He has been there since day one from Sandy; he's been at my house several times," said Stephanie Beharovic, 41, of Ocean Breeze, a campaign volunteer.
Recchia called Grimm to concede and told backers at a South Beach catering hall, "I want you to know we fought hard."
Grimm told reporters he expected to be acquitted. He called the vote "a referendum on [President Barack] Obama's Justice Department."
Assemb. Joseph Borelli (R-Staten Island) said at the reception that voters "really identify" with the incumbent.
He also said the borough offers qualified successors if Grimm is convicted and resigns. "I think any one of us would be a great replacement," Borelli said.
Recchia backer state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn), at Recchia's reception, accused Grimm of wanting "to buy time before his indictment."
Grimm, 44, is due to stand trial in February after pleading not guilty to a 20-count indictment last April. He is accused of hiring workers without legal immigration status for a Manhattan restaurant he had owned and evading taxes on $1 million in receipts among other charges.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee saw the indictment as a chance to snag a district that the GOP has held for 32 of the past 34 years. It spent more than $1 million on ads to boost Recchia and signed up 7,500 new voters.
Recchia, 55, faltered during the campaign when discussing policy. He touted as foreign affairs experience his running of a student exchange program with Japan and travels to Italy, and stumbled when asked about free trade and Grimm's record on labor issues.
With Ivan Pereira