Today’s news:

Molinari backs Cochrane - Former S.I. president ‘delighted’ in pick

There’s a new show horse on the political merry-go-round that keeps turning, non-stop, in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Vito Fossella.

Former Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari, a Republican, who also held the Congressional seat now up for grabs, has endorsed Conservative Party candidate Timothy Cochrane, who began his run just a couple of weeks back, after Paul Atanasio – the party’s original candidate -- backed out of the race.

The other candidates in the race in the 13th Congressional District – which includes all of Staten Island and a broad swath of Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Gravesend -- are Democratic City Councilmember Michael McMahon, who has been endorsed by Staten Island’s Conservative Borough President James Molinaro, among others; former Republican Assemblymember Robert Straniere; and businessman Carmine Morano, who is running on the Independence Party line.

Molinari, one of the city’s long-time Republican power brokers, told this paper that he had endorsed Cochrane – a Brooklyn businessman who is serving as the director of development for Xaverian High School -- after the candidate had been brought to his attention by Mike Long, the chairperson of the state’s Conservative Party.

“I was delighted to find out there was someone like Tim available,” enthused Molinari. “I was very impressed by his resume, by his work at Xaverian and on Wall Street.”

“It’s a great endorsement,” noted Cochrane of Molinari’s backing. “Who cares more about the seat than Guy? I think it says wake up to the people of Staten Island.

“As much as I’m running as a Conservative, I’m the only Republican that lives in the district that’s in the race,” Cochrane added, a reference to the fact that Straniere currently lives in Manhattan, though he has said he would move back to Staten Island should he be victorious next month.

Molinari was asked, why not endorse the party pick, Straniere, who won the primary against Staten Island Republican Party Finance Chair Jamshad Wyne?

“I put Straniere in there when I went to Congress,” Molinari said of the man who had served in the Assembly for his Staten Island district for 24 years before losing a party primary in 2004. “I learned since that it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.”

Molinari said that Straniere had been sued more than once by his business partners. “Only a week ago, he closed his hot dog business down and is being sued by one of his partners there,” Molinari noted. “A leopard doesn’t changes his spots in all these years. That’s not the kind of person I want to endorse.

“We’ve held the seat for 30 years,” Molinari added. “Straniere can’t possibly win. The leadership here (on Staten Island) made some big mistakes. I’ve said publicly that next year I’m going to take the leadership out and restore credibility to the party.”

Regarding Molinari’s endorsement of Cochrane, Straniere – who has struggled to line up local elected officials behind him, though he has the backing of the Brooklyn and Staten Island Republican Parties -- released a statement on October 8th which said, “I was chosen by the Republican primary voters in the 13th Congressional District, not by Guy Molinari or any other one person.

“Unfortunately,” Straniere went on, “Guy would rather have it his way or no way. He would rather see this seat go to the liberal Democrat candidate rather than a solid, strong, experienced, principled Republican--which is what would happen if voters split the votes on the right. That's what his endorsement today is doing.

“The question that Guy needs to ask himself is who does he want representing Staten Island next year: Liberal, tax-hiking Democrat Mike McMahon, or conservative, family-values, principled Republican, Bob Straniere?'” Straniere added. “That's the choice. I believe the voters will choose me, and I would be honored and excited to represent them.”

Nonetheless, despite all the verbiage, McMahon’s momentum has been building, and Molinari and Cochrane both acknowledged that Cochrane’s candidacy faces an uphill battle.

“It’s still a long shot,” said Molinari, who added that he would put muscle behind his words. “I’m not just going to endorse. I’m out there working to try to see if I can get Rudy Giuliani to endorse Timmy. I don’t know if that’s possible but I think he’d like him. I’m going to do what I can do, work as hard as I can and hope that lightning strikes. If he doesn’t make it this time, perhaps there will be another opportunity in the future.”

“Maybe we got to the game a little late,” added Cochrane, “But it’s not over till November 5th. Hopefully, we can make people pay a little more attention and get the message out. The more people who learn about my background, and what I’m doing now, the better chance I have.”

That being said, Cochrane acknowledged that having three candidates – himself, Straniere and Morano – drawing from roughly the same pool of voters also made the race more challenging. “It certainly makes it harder, and breaks up the Republican-Conservative-independent vote,” Cochrane said.

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