Disgraced ex-Congressman Vito Fossella emerged from political exile on Tuesday to say he’s seeking the Republican nomination for Staten Island borough president — more than a dozen years after a second-family scandal killed his career.
“We’re distributing petitions, starting today,” Fossella told The Post.
Fossella, 56, said he wanted to push back against the progressive politics of outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio and help lead Staten Island’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve seen what happened the past eight years, particularly the last four years: support for defunding the police, shootings in the middle of the day,” he said.
“We have people fleeing the city, fleeing Staten Island for greener pastures. We need to get back to basics. People deserve solutions and a strong voice. I believe I am that person.”
Fossella also said he’d made amends for the affair in which he fathered a child out of wedlock and had reconciled with his wife, childhood sweetheart Mary Pat.
“I believe in second chances. All human beings make mistakes. I accepted responsibility for my actions,” he said.
Fossella was an obscure member of the City Council when he was elected to Congress in a special election in 1997 with the help of more than $1 million in funding from the national Republican Party.
A staunch conservative, he was re-elected five times but didn’t run again following a 2008 arrest for drunken driving in Alexandria, Va.
A week later after the bust, the married father of three acknowledged carrying on a longstanding affair with former US Air Force intelligence officer, Laura Fay, with whom he fathered a daughter.
The admission followed the revelation that Fay had picked him up following his arrest.
Fossella’s announcement Tuesday followed a 2013 flirtation with a potential run for his old seat in Congress, which at the time was held by then-US Rep. Michael Grimm, who was under investigation by the feds.
Grimm — who infamously threatened to throw a TV reporter off a balcony in the US Capitol — was re-elected in 2014 but pleaded guilty later that year to tax evasion and was sentenced to eight months in prison.
The November race for Staten Island borough president is wide open because the two-term incumbent, Republican James Oddo, is barred from seeking re-election due to term limits.
City Councilman Steven Matteo (R-Staten Island) was the first Republican to announce his candidacy and has been endorsed by the borough’s GOP.
Also seeking the Republican nomination is former Staten Island GOP chairwoman Letitia Remauro, who came under fire for shouting, “Heil Hitler” at cops during a December protest against coronavirus safety protocols.
Remauro later publicly apologized, saying it was a “very bad analogy” and “I won’t try to make any excuses.”
She has the backing of the Staten Island Conservative Party.
Declared Democratic candidates include former congressional candidate Mark Murphy, who won his party’s endorsement last month, and wine-store owner and activist Lorie Honor.
State Conservative Parky Chairman Gerald Kassar said that Fosella’s high level of name recognition would likely offset his late entry into the race and that he’d also be aided by the fact that his father, a former city official also named Vito, was active in Staten Island politics.
Kassar said Fossella would have to address his scandal-scarred past but added that many voters would likely consider that “old news.”
Vito will be a very strong candidate,” he said.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in Staten Island, 144,357 to 107,085, according to the latest state enrollment figures.
But the borough’s voters tend to favor GOP candidates, with 57 percent supporting then-President Donald Trump last year, the same portion that backed him in 2016.