New York voters set to pick candidates in fight for Congress

NEW YORK — New York City's only Republican congressman, U.S. Rep. Daniel Donovan, will try to hold off a fierce challenge in the state's primary election Tuesday from former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who is trying to make a political comeback after serving prison time for tax fraud.

The fight between the two Republicans is the most closely watched race in New York congressional primaries that also will decide which Democrat will run to replace the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, who had represented the Rochester area since 1987 before her death in March.

Voters also will trim crowded fields of Democrats hoping to challenge several incumbent Republicans, including U.S. Rep. John Faso, who represents a battleground district in the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions.

Polling stations across the state close at 9 p.m.

The primary's main event is the faceoff in a district based in New York City's Staten Island between Donovan, who is running for his third term, and Grimm, who quit Congress in 2015 after pleading guilty to hiring people who were living in the country illegally and evading income taxes at a restaurant he owned. A year earlier, he became enraged at a reporter who asked him about that probe, threatening to hurl him off a U.S. Capitol balcony.

On the campaign trail, Grimm has decried his prosecution as politically motivated and assailed Donovan as a lightweight who hasn't done enough for his constituents.

Donovan, who was Staten Island's district attorney before becoming a congressman, has in turn called Grimm, who served more than seven months in prison, an untrustworthy tax cheat.

Both men have proclaimed themselves to be loyal foot soldiers for President Donald Trump, who won Staten Island in the 2016 presidential election. Trump endorsed Donovan, saying in a tweet that he can win in November "and his opponent will not."

"We can't take any chances on losing to a Nancy Pelosi controlled Democrat!" Trump said.

Six Democrats are competing for the right to take on the winner of the Donovan vs. Grimm fight. They include Max Rose, an Army combat veteran with party establishment support who already has raised nearly $1 million in anticipation of going on to the general election.

In another closely watched race, seven Democrats are competing for the right to challenge Faso, a Republican running for his second term in a district that went for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016.

The crowded field is tough to handicap.

The best-funded Democratic candidates include lawyer Antonio Delgado, of Rhinebeck, Brian Flynn, an activist whose brother was killed in a terrorist attack on a Pan Am flight over Scotland in 1988, and Patrick Ryan, an Iraq war veteran from Kingston.

A former CIA officer and diplomat, Jeff Beals, hasn't raised as much money, but has gotten national media attention with a Bernie Sanders-style campaign assailing corruption in politics. Erin Collier, an economist, got the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Dave Clegg, a civil rights lawyer, has been touring the district by bike. Garth Rhodes, a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, got an endorsement from The New York Times.

In another crowded field, four Democrats are running in the primary to replace Slaughter. The perceived establishment favorite, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, faces off with Rochester City Council Vice President Adam McFadden, former TV journalist Rachel Barnhart and Robin Wilt, a member of the town board in the suburb of Brighton.

The winner will face Republican candidate James Maxwell, a Rochester neurosurgeon who was unopposed in the Republican primary.