In a move certain to widen the city’s divide, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan has announced he’s running for Congress. Donovan gained national attention, if not notoriety, for failing to bring an indictment against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Whether Donovan’s decision stems from ambition or opportunism, he has secured the borough’s Republican nomination for the 11th Congressional District seat vacated by Michael Grimm, who resigned after pleading guilty to a felony tax charge.
Garner died July 17 as police attempted to arrest him for selling “loosie” cigarettes. His death occurred before the Aug. 9 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury also declined to indict the police officer in that shooting.
Donovan has not explained his grand jurors’ reasons for not indicting Pantaleo because of state grand jury secrecy rules. Pantaleo and other officers tried to arrest the 350-pound Garner after local merchants complained that Garner, who had 30 prior arrests, hurt their businesses by illegally selling loose smokes.
Since then, New York has been in turmoil. During citywide protests, two lieutenants were beaten on the Brooklyn Bridge, and last month two NYPD officers were assassinated by a supposedly deranged black man from Baltimore who cited Garner’s death as a reason for killing them. A subsequent cop-work slowdown followed.
In a statement Friday, Donovan said that “the enthusiasm for my candidacy has only broadened and intensified, with expressions of support also from beyond the two boroughs.”
Such support, like that once seen by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is virtually all white. But if you are black, you might view Donovan in a different light.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), who had demanded Pantaleo be indicted, said in a statement that Donovan’s “entire public record, including what happened and did not happen in the context of the grand jury investigation into Eric Garner’s death, is something that should be heavily scrutinized.”
Many ordinary New Yorkers might be forgiven for voicing the same words about Donovan’s congressional candidacy that Garner uttered on the video as Pantaleo brought him to ground: “I can’t breathe.”