STATEN ISLAND — A hotly contested congressional race on Staten Island fizzled out after Hurricane Sandy.
Throngs of voters turning up to the polls in the storm-ravaged borough, but few were passionate about the battle between Congressman Michael Grimm and Democratic challenger Mark Murphy.
According to a Nov. 1 poll, Grimm had a secure hold on New York’s 11th congressional district heading into the election. Both politicians all but suspended their political campaigns in Sandy’s wake, instead focusing on helping the borough recover from the storm.
“I forgot it was even going on,” said Joseph Shack, 25, after casting his vote for a Democratic ticket in a makeshift tent polling site at P.S. 52.
“It hasn’t really been at the forefront since the storm,” he added, noting that his family’s cars were destroyed by Sandy.
At another polling site at P.S. 39, Steve DiSalvo, 59, also cast a largely Democratic vote. But he could not remember Mark Murphy’s name.
“I’m voting for Obama because I don’t like rich people,” he said. “I forgot about Grimm and the other guy.”
When Grimm cast his vote at P.S. 69, he flitted between nearly every voter in the room, making sure they were okay after the storm — and prepared for the Nor’easter expected for later this week.
“If you feel you need to evacuate, don’t take chances,” said Grimm to one voter.
“Stay with a friend.”
Many on Staten Island’s south shore told reporters that they planned not to vote on Tuesday, largely because the destruction of their houses put the election on the back burner. Grimm said he knew full well that many in the borough’s most devastated areas might not have politics on their minds.
“I completely understand. They’re devastated. Under these circumstances, I completely understand,” he said.
“At the grand scheme of things, these people are at the end of their rope, so it just might not be a priority.”
Both men said that their goal was to make sure that those who chose to vote did so comfortably. After hearing that some sites were operating without heat or lights, Murphy's staff called the Board of Elections asking them to fix the situation immediately.
“Every citizen should be able to vote in private and in comfort,” Murphy said.
That’s not to say that turnout has been light. Coordinators at several polling places said there’s been a steady stream of Staten Islanders turning up to the vote. But most voters arrived with the presidential campaign first in their minds.
Many, according to polling officials, came from other districts to vote via affidavit, taking advantage of a last-minute ruling by Governor Andrew Cuomo allowing refugees to vote at any polling site. Doing so means they can only vote in a residential and senate races, not in a congressional one.
“There are a lot of people coming from other areas — I lost count,” said Janet Ann Scuder, coordinator at the poll site at P.S. 39.
“If they lost their house and they’re staying with the family, with their daughters, they’re going to come vote wherever they can. It’s a good thing that Cuomo did.”'