Michael Grimm, the former Republican congressman who went to jail for tax evasion, announced the launch of his campaign for his old seat representing Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn in New York on Sunday afternoon.
More than a year after being released from prison after pleading guilty to tax fraud charges, Grimm announced his intention to take back New York's 11th Congressional District seat from his replacement, fellow Republican Rep. Dan Donovan, in front of a crowd in the New Dorp section of Staten Island.
"I have matured. I'm tempered. I'm wiser. But I'm still the same guy you know yearning to serve you every chance I get," Grimm said during the campaign launch event. "Michael Grimm always goes the distance."
Beginning in 2015, Grimm served eight months in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of tax fraud related to a Manhattan health food eatery, Healthalicious, he co-owned before taking assuming political office. Federal prosecutors say Grimm failed to report $1 million from his restaurant business in Manhattan prior to his 2010 election to Congress.
"I've had a lot of time to reflect and for introspection. I'm truly sorry if I let any of you down," Grimm told the crowd Sunday. "I feel like I let your voice be abruptly taken away from you when I resigned. From the very bottom of my heart, I am sorry and I do love you."
Grimm won re-election in November 2014 against former Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia, but resigned six weeks later after pleading guilty. Grimm had stated he would "absolutely not" resign, but did so after speaking with then-House Speaker John Boehner, who called the resignation "honorable."
The 11th Congressional District is made up of Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn, including the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend. Donovan was elected to finish out Grimm's term and was re-elected to serve a full term in 2016.
Michael Caputo, a former top Trump campaign adviser who's now aiding the Grimm campaign, claims voters in the district are not pleased with Donovan's decision not to align with President Donald Trump and, he says, would welcome Grimm back to office.
"The 11th Congressional District is Trump country," Caputo said. "It's time for Republicans who oppose the President to pay a price for that."
Donovan voted against the President on the House's failed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare and he opposes Trump's proposed tax overhaul, which Donovan said would impose burdensome taxes on the middle class residents of his district.
A campaign official said many in the district see Grimm's prosecution as politically motivated.
"A good legion of Republicans on Staten Island have the same opinion of the political prosecution of Grimm as they do of Joe Arpaio and Dinesh D'Souza and now the President of the United States," the campaign official said, adding that Grimm supports Trump. "The Department of Justice was weaponized against Congressman Grimm. Republicans, especially in strong Trump territory, have a unique perspective on a Department of Justice out of control."
During his campaign announcement, Grimm made repeated reference to supporting Trump. Staten Island, which makes up the majority of the 11th district, voted for Trump by a 56.4% to 41.2% margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the district is now the only Republican-held congressional seat in New York City.
"Together we will go to Washington and have our President's back. We will support our President," Grimm said in attacking Donovan, who Grimm said is not doing enough to align himself with Trump.
Before Grimm served time in prison for tax fraud, he was in the headlines for threatening to throw a NY1 reporter off a balcony at the US Capitol complex after the reporter questioned him about his campaign finances. Grimm later apologized to the reporter.