Politics

Inspiring: This Staten Island Politician Revived His Career After a DUI Revealed His Secret Second Family

Side by side photos of Fossella with brown hair in 2008 and gray thinning hair in 2021
Vito Fossella, now and then. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Sean Gardner/Getty Images and AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.

Thirteen years ago, in the time when something like “getting discovered with a secret family because of a chain of falling dominoes that was initially tipped over by a drunken driving arrest” was the kind of thing that could end a Republican politician’s career, New York Rep. Vito Fossella’s career in Congress ended when he was discovered with a secret family because of a chain of falling dominoes that was initially tipped over when he was arrested for drunken driving.

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The driving incident and the secret extramarital partner and child were in Alexandria, Virginia. Fossella’s district was on Staten Island, New York City’s largest remaining enclave of white conservatism. (The area that Fossella represented would later be briefly held by Democrat Max Rose, but that seat was flipped back in 2020 by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis after a campaign heavy on accusations of wanting to defund the police.)

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Although Donald Trump is technically a Queens native who lives in Manhattan, he is possibly the most Staten Island–esque politician to ever appear on the U.S. national scene, and his tenure was an inspiration to all sorts of personally, uh, unique figures across the country. Fossella relaunched his career in this new milieu with a campaign to become Staten Island’s borough president, and was even able to get Trump to record a robocall on his behalf before the primary. During his campaign, he helped sue the city of New York (unsuccessfully) over its public-employee vaccine mandate; he also criticized the city’s use of automated speed-zone cameras as a “money grab” despite being the vice president of a company that does debt collection on automated speed-zone tickets for the city, which is an A-plus Trump family–type move as well.

On Tuesday, Fossella completed the job, winning his general election (as expected) by a wide margin, then recorded a video for the former president at his victory party:

“This video is going to go to President Trump! Tell President Trump what Staten Island thinks of what he has done!” he added, to cheers of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” from the audience.

Indeed! Trump, Trump, Trump.

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