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My father’s campaign

Joe McMahon | Friday, September 19, 2008

The news that the long-entrenched Republican Congressman Vito Fossella from New York’s 13th district (composed of Staten Island and southern Brooklyn) had been caught for a DUI in Virginia first broke when my parents came to pick me up at Notre Dame at the end of last semester. Slowly, rumors began to circulate that Fossella was actually driving to see his mistress and secret love child in Alexandria, Va.

At first, my father Michael McMahon, a Democratic New York City Councilman from the North Shore of Staten Island, dismissed these rumors like everyone else. However, as the press dug deeper, the facts became clear – Fossella had fathered a child out of wedlock, and had kept his second family secret for nearly two years. It appears Fossella was simply a “family values” politician who valued family so much that he decided to have a second one.

Disgraced, he announced that he would not seek office in the upcoming election, opening the door for Democrats to take the seat for the first time in ten years. My father’s lifelong dream of serving in Washington now was within reach, and immediately he was on the phones negotiating with the local Democratic party bosses. My father was definitely not their first choice, but after a much political posturing and several clever maneuvers, he was ultimately able to convince them that he was the best choice for the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Immediately, my father was handed the task of mounting a campaign for Congress with only five months until election day. In addition, he still faced a primary challenge from Brooklyn lawyer Steve Harrison who had run for the seat against Fossella in 2006 and had no plans of clearing the path for my father.

Normally, Congressional races are organized over the course of two years, but with the help of an incredibly loyal and competent staff, he was able to get the campaign off the ground within a month. The Washington-based Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was so impressed that they bestowed the coveted “red-to-blue” status on the campaign, encouraging many large Democratic donors to give to the effort. Big-name politicians like Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer have endorsed him, and the man who ran Barack Obama’s successful primary campaign in Iowa signed-on to be his Campaign Manager, bringing with him a wealth of experience.

However, the campaign has still been a battle, with my father facing a challenge from former Republican Assemblyman Robert Straniere, who was ousted from his own seat in 2004 by his own party and had since entered the hot dog business. While many may think this is a joke, they underestimate the conservative leanings of Staten Island – a Democrat has not held this seat since the 1960’s.

In addition, fighting between staff members coupled with having to make 5 or 6 appearances at events and fundraisers have started to take their toll. Despite all this, my father has displayed a level of competence and professionalism throughout the entire ordeal. His honest approach and great record of service carried him to a 50-point win in the Sept. 9 primary, and I can only hope for the same results in the general election. But whatever the outcome of the election, he has put his heart and soul into this campaign and demonstrated the values of integrity, hard work, caring and patience. I can honestly say that there has never been a point in my life where I have been more proud to call him my father.