The Staten Island prosecutor at the heart of the controversial Eric Garner chokehold case is very likely to win his congressional bid, according to a new poll published Wednesday.
The poll, conducted for the House Democrats’ campaign arm and obtained by Capital New York, shows Republican District Attorney Dan Donovan far ahead of his top rival despite — or arguably, because of — the controversy.
Donovan was tapped by local Republicans to run in a special election to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm (R) who resigned earlier this month after pleading guilty to a tax fraud charge. Democratic party officials in the district have yet to name their candidate, but sources have told Business Insider State Assemblyman Michael Cusick is their top choice.
The new poll showed Donovan leading Cusick by a wide 20-point margin: 48% to 28%.
It also showed voters in the district, which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, agree 50% to 34% with the results of the Garner case. In December, a Staten Island grand jury dismissed charges against the white officer who was filmed placing Garner, an unarmed African-American man, in an apparent chokehold shortly before his death. The case touched off intense protests across the country. Many critics suggested Donovan did not do enough to obtain an indictment.
What’s worse for Democrats is that, even after the pollster, Global Strategy Group, tested negative message after negative message against Donovan, the Republican still held his lead. David Nir, the political director at the left-leaning site Daily Kos Elections, which often analyses poll results, told Business Insider the survey leaves little hope for Democrats.
“Even after a battery of negative messages were tested against Donovan, the Republican still maintains a lead on Cusick. So even in an ideal world where Democrats could land blow after blow against Donovan, they still wouldn’t come out ahead,” Nir said.
There is still some time for Democrats to attempt to turn things around, however. A date for the special election has not yet been scheduled and Democrats still haven’t picked their candidate. Furthermore, on paper, the race should be competitive. Though the district has traditionally elected Republicans, President Barack Obama won it over Mitt Romney in 2012.
“This just confirms once again how unique Staten Island’s politics are,” Nir argued. “Obama may have carried this district, but when you combine a low-turnout special election with inflamed resentment about how the police have supposedly been treated, Staten Island readily reverts to its ancestral Republican traditions.”
Republicans were quick to spin the poll as bad news for Democrats nationally. Ian Prior, a spokesman for the House Republicans’ campaign arm, asked how Democrats can expect to retake Congress if they can’t win seats like this one.
“No wonder why Democrats can’t get anyone to run for a seat that Democrats must win to have any hope at retaking the majority in 2016,” he wrote in an email to reporters.
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