Though he has been out of office for more than 10 years, former Staten Island Borough President and Rep. Guy Molinari still carries plenty of weight in island politics. But with the mayor's race already in full swing and a hotly-contested City Council seat up for grabs in the borough, some are wondering whether the 84-year-old politician is still the power broker he once was. Borough reporter Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
Backing Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota was supposed to be a no-brainer for GOP powerhouse Guy Molinari, Staten Island's former borough president and congressman. Molinari has close ties to Lhota's old boss, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
But last month, Molinari changed his mind, saying Lhota's camp did not call him back to confirm the endorsement, and decided to instead back former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, who is running on the Independence Party line and trying to get Republican support.
"It's just an extension of his actions as a politician since the 1970s," said Richard Flanagan, a professor of political science at the College of Staten Island. "I don't think any of this is unusual, I just think the context has changed."
In the last decade, Molinari has helped elect a host of Staten Island officials, starting with Borough President James Molinaro, who served as his deputy. Molinari and Molinaro no longer speak.
Molinari's daughter, Susan, replaced her father in Congress, and when she decided to leave politics, he hand-picked her successor, Vito Fossella, who served as Staten Island's representative until a paternity scandal in Washington forced him out of office.
Next came current Rep. Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent and relative unknown to politics until he teamed up with Molinari.
"He's had his fingers in it except for that two-year stretch when [Michael] McMahon won, so that's a pretty incredible run," Flanagan said.
But since Grimm, Molinari has not had much luck, causing some to question whether his endorsement means anything anymore.
Last year, Molinari's pick for state Assembly lost to Democratic incumbent Michael Cusick. His candidate for the City Council seat that is being vacated by James Oddo is considered the underdog.
The borough's current GOP leaders are tight-lipped about Molinari. When asked whether he is still relevant to island politics, both City Councilmen James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio had no comment.
But insiders say, with his flair for off-the-cuff comments and headline-grabbing rhetoric, Molinari is far from done with Staten Island politics.