Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon is on the path to an easy re-election this fall: The Democratic incumbent will not face a Republican challenger, THE CITY has learned.
With petitions due to the city Board of Elections Thursday, the Staten Island Republican County Committee hasn’t endorsed or collected signatures for any potential candidates in the only borough that went for Donald Trump in 2016.
Brendan Lantry, the borough’s GOP chair, said the party put out calls for candidates – but no one committed to running.
“While we did hear from some folks who expressed interest, ultimately those folks did not pull the trigger in running this year for district attorney,” Lantry told THE CITY.
“You can’t drain water from a rock, so if people don’t want to step up and run, then people don’t want to step up and run.”
McMahon told THE CITY in a phone interview Thursday that his campaign is aware that Republicans aren’t circulating petitions for a candidate.
“I was prepared to present my record of promises made and promises kept to the people of Staten Island and run a vigorous campaign as I’ve done in my last 10 elections, all of which were always hotly contested,” said McMahon, who is serving his first term as DA after winning the seat in 2015.
“If it works out that I don’t have an opponent it’ll give me more time to do the work of the people of Staten Island as their district attorney.”
McMahon added that he’ll consider paring down his campaign and fundraising efforts.
The former Staten Island congressman and councilmember likely will coast to re-election on Nov. 5 without a major party opponent in a borough where Trump won 57% of the vote in 2016.
McMahon’s been serving as the borough’s top prosecutor since 2016 after beating Republican Joan Illuzzi. His victory came after former Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, a Republican, won the borough’s House seat in a 2015 special election.
Donovan had faced mounting criticism at the time for his handling of the Eric Garner killing, after a grand jury failed to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December 2014. McMahon ran for DA with backing from the Conservative and Independence parties as well as several police unions – an edge up for a Democrat in the city’s reddest borough.
Candidate Over Party
The uncontested race for comes only a few months after Rep. Max Rose flipped New York’s 11th Congressional District — which encompasses all of Staten Island and a sliver of southern Brooklyn — to Democratic control for the first time in eight years. McMahon lost the seat to Republican Michael Grimm in 2010. As of February, voter records show, Staten Island has 136,701 registered Democrats and 93,829 Republicans.
Since that election, one of McMahon’s signature programs has been the creation of an “overdose response initiative” that investigates overdose deaths like crime scenes. The idea is to target drug dealers – and obtain real-time data on overdose deaths and Naloxone “saves” to better track the borough’s struggle with opioids.
“Once a district attorney plants roots, it’s very difficult to supplant an incumbent,” said Richard Flanagan, political science professor at the College of Staten Island and the author of “Staten Island: Conservative Bastion in a Liberal City.”
“It’s almost as if party as such doesn’t matter,” he said, “It’s really the relationship between the candidates and the electorate that matters.”
Flanagan noted that unless a Republican elected official with local name recognition entered the race, it would be difficult to mount a challenge against McMahon, a politician “with great crossover appeal” and who had $162,980 in his campaign coffers as of January.
It’s not uncommon for district attorneys in New York City to go without a serious challenge.
McMahon’s predecessor, Donovan, held the position for 11 years after taking over from William Murphy, a Democrat, who was Staten Island’s DA for two decades.
In 2015, the Bronx and Queens district attorneys both went unchallenged after receiving endorsements from the local Democratic, Republican and Conservative parties. And in 2009, then-Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes was elected unopposed.
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