Dan Donovan (politician)

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Dan Donovan
Dan Donovan official photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th district
Assumed office
May 5, 2015
Preceded by Michael Grimm
District Attorney of Richmond County
In office
January 1, 2004 – May 5, 2015
Preceded by William L. Murphy
Succeeded by Michael McMahon
Deputy Borough President of Staten Island
In office
January 1, 2002 – December 31, 2003
President James Molinaro
Preceded by James Molinaro
Succeeded by Edward Burke
Personal details
Born Daniel Michael Donovan Jr.
(1956-11-06) November 6, 1956 (age 61)
Staten Island, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Education St. John's University (BA)
Fordham University (JD)
Website House website

Daniel Michael Donovan Jr. (born November 6, 1956) is an American attorney, former prosecutor, and politician. A Republican, he is currently the United States Representative for New York's 11th congressional district, first elected in a May 2015 special election. The district includes all of Staten Island, as well as portions of southwest Brooklyn. He is the only Republican representing a significant portion of New York City in Congress.

Early life and career[edit]

Donovan was born into a working-class Roman Catholic family in Staten Island, New York in 1956. His Irish-American father, Daniel Michael Donovan, was a longshoreman and lifelong Democrat; his Polish-American mother, Katherine Bolewicz Donovan, was a garment worker.[1][2]

He was raised in the Tompkinsville section of the borough.[3] He attended Monsignor Farrell High School, an all-boys Catholic school, graduating in 1974. He went to study Criminal Justice at St. John's University. After graduating from there he attended Fordham University School of Law, earning his juris doctor in 1988.[3]

In 1989, Donovan became an Assistant District Attorney in the office of Robert M. Morgenthau.[4] He served in the office of the New York County District Attorney under Morgenthau until 1996. Later that year Donovan became Chief of Staff to then Staten Island Borough President Guy V. Molinari.[5] He remained in that position until 2002 when he was sworn in as Deputy Borough President of Staten Island; he had been appointed by his immediate predecessor and the then new Borough President James Molinaro.[5]

Richmond County District Attorney[edit]

In 2003, twenty-year incumbent Democrat William L. Murphy decided not to seek re-election. Donovan announced his intention to run to succeed him. In the election he faced Chief Assistant District Attorney David Lehr and won with over 53% of the vote.[6] A key part of his platform was to start the county's first witness protection program, and his office led the city's prosecutors with the highest felony conviction rate in many of the years since he took office.[7]

He was re-elected in 2007 with over 68% of the vote, defeating local Democratic attorney Michael Ryan[8] despite a last minute endorsement for his rival by longtime friend and mentor Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro; Molinaro was angered that Donovan had referred his grandson's case to a special prosecutor.[9]

Donovan's tenure as DA has seen several high-profile cases, including the second conviction of Andre Rand, long suspected in a string of kidnappings on Staten Island. In 2010, famed rapper Method Man pleaded guilty to attempted tax evasion and was forced to pay about $106,000 in restitution and penalties.[10]

Eric Garner case[edit]

Donovan became the focus of a national controversy surrounding the death of Eric Garner in 2014[11][12][13][14] when a Richmond County, New York grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer whose choke hold the medical examiner determined was instrumental in Garner's death, on any charges. The medical examiner had ruled Garner's death a homicide. After considering the medical examiner's findings that Garner was killed by "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police"[15]

Donovan's office declared "it is appropriate to present evidence regarding circumstances of his death to a Richmond County Grand Jury."[16]

Donovan asked the grand jury to consider whether there was "probable cause" for manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, but did not bring forward reckless endangerment charges.[17] After two months, the grand jury brought forward no indictment. Donovan's office strenuously opposed releasing the trial proceedings citing New York confidentiality laws despite being pressured by activists and lawmakers to release the records.[18]

2010 New York Attorney General campaign[edit]

On May 17, 2010, Donovan, a registered Republican, announced his candidacy for the New York attorney general election, 2010, becoming the front runner for his party's nomination.[19] However, Bob Antonacci, Onondaga County Comptroller, announced his intention run for Attorney General.[20]

Antonacci stepped aside and endorsed Donovan after earning forty percent of the vote at the 2010 Republican State Convention.[21] With a sixty percent win of the delegates at the convention and no primary opponent, Donovan became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.[22]

One week earlier, he had received the endorsement of the Conservative Party of New York but was defeated on November 2 by Democrat Eric Schneiderman.[23]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


Donovan was selected as the Republican candidate for New York's 11th congressional district after the resignation of Michael Grimm. He defeated the Democrat, Vincent J. Gentile, and the Green Party candidate, James Lane, in the May 2015 special election.[24] Donovan was elected May 5, 2015 and sworn into office on May 12, 2015.[25]

In 2016, Donovan faced Democrat Richard Reichard in his first re-election bid.[26] Donovan was re-elected with 56.8% of the vote.[1]

In 2018, Donovan faced a primary challenge from former Rep. Michael Grimm.[27] During the primary campaign, Grimm accused Donovan of having tried to entice Grimm to drop out of the race by offering to lobby Trump to pardon Grimm.[27] Grimm pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges in 2014 and spent several months in prison.[27] During the primary, both candidates emphasized their loyalty to Trump, seeking to "out-Trump each other," according to the Washington Post.[28]

Committee assignments[edit]

Donovan is a member of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership[29] and the Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus.[30]

Political positions[edit]

As of January 2018, Donovan had voted with his party in 91.6% of votes so far in the 115th United States Congress and voted in line with President Trump's position in 81.4% of votes.[31][32] Donovan was ranked as the 15th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 114th United States Congress in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy.[33]

Donovan has been characterized as a "moderate Republican".[34] However, by 2018, Donovan ran with an emphasis on conservatism and loyalty to President Trump.[28] In the first session of the 115th United States Congress, Donovan's Bipartisan Index rank fell to 50th.[35]

Vote Smart Political Courage Test[edit]

Vote Smart, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that collects and distributes information on candidates for public office in the United States, "researched presidential and congressional candidates' public records to determine candidates' likely responses on certain key issues." According to Vote Smart's 2016 analysis, Donovan generally supports pro-choice legislation, opposes federal spending and supports lowering taxes as a means of promoting economic growth, supports the building of the Keystone Pipeline, opposes government funding for the development of renewable energy, opposes the federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, supports gun-control legislation, opposes repealing the Affordable Care Act, supports requiring immigrants who are unlawfully present to return to their country of origin before they are eligible for citizenship, opposes same-sex marriage, supports increased American intervention in Iraq and Syria beyond air support, and opposes allowing individuals to divert a portion of their Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts.[36]

Donald Trump[edit]

Donovan endorsed Trump in the 2016 presidential election.[37] He has called Trump a "personal friend".[38] Trump endorsed Donovan's 2018 re-election bid, but in the announcement of his endorsement mistakenly claimed that Donovan had voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.[39] Donovan introduced legislation that would require post offices to display Trump's portrait.[28]

Health care[edit]

In January 2016, Donovan voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).[40] In May 2017, he voted against the American Health Care Act (the GOP's bill repealing Obamacare).[41]


Donovan was the only member of Congress to represent New York City who supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to impose a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.[42] He said, "President Trump's decision is in America's best interest, and I support exploring safe zones in the region to protect innocent life."[43] In June 2017, Donovan voted in favor of Kate's Law, which would increase penalties for undocumented immigrants that return to the United States after being deported.[44]

Donovan opposes sanctuary cities (jurisdictions that have policies in place to limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement).[45] In March 2017, Donovan said that he opposed efforts to reduce funding for jurisdictions with sanctuary policies in place.[45] In April 2018, Donovan introduced legislation that would reduce federal funding to jurisdictions with sanctuary policies in place, such as New York City.[46] In June 2018, Donovan defended the decision of ICE to arrest an undocumented immigrant while delivering a pizza to a Brooklyn Army base.[47] Amid a 2018 primary challenge, Donovan came out in favor of Trump's wall on the Mexican border, saying "Build that wall! Build that damn wall!"[28]

LGBT rights[edit]

He was endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans in his political career.[48] He has been criticized by opponents as being opposed to LGBT rights.[49] Donovan has a 64% rating from the Human Rights Campaign based on his LGBT rights-focused voting record.[50][non-primary source needed]


Donovan has a "C" rating from NORML regarding his voting record on cannabis-related matters. He has voted against allowing veterans access to medical marijuana, if legal in their state, per their Veterans Health Administration doctor's recommendation.[51]


Donovan voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, one of five New York Republican representatives to do so.[52] In a statement, he shared that he opposed the bill because it would raise taxes for his constituents and additionally impact the "already unaffordable housing market in my district".[53]

Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018 Donovan introduced bill H.R.6054, Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018 in the House of Representatives on June 8, 2018.[54] The bill introduces penalties to individuals engaging in behavior that is associated with the far left Antifa movement. The bill specifically penalizes those who carry out actions that cause "injury ,opposes, threatens or intimidates any person" while wearing a mask, with the maximum penalty being a 15 year sentence. The legislation was given media attention after being promoted by Alt-right activist Mike Cernovich[55] Many on the political left have strongly opposed this legislation, with professor Mark Bray of Dartmouth writing, ""It's a law that threatens to clamp down on direct action politics more broadly, I think it sets a disturbing precedent.[56]

Townhall controversy[edit]

In 2017, some of Donovan's constituents noted he had never hosted a town hall and began to request one. They cited their concerns over Donovan's support of President Trump's Executive Order 13780 that would place limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries, and by refugees who do not possess either a visa or valid travel documents, and his voting record on health care coverage as reason. The same constituents claimed requests for meetings and town halls had gone unanswered.[57]

Protesters disrupted a Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce event in February 2017, claiming that Donovan would not meet them in a town hall so they would seek him out at other events.[58]

Donovan said he had offered meetings, but some activists claimed this was untrue, and that meetings were hastily scheduled after the Chamber of Commerce protest. Additional protests followed in Brooklyn[59] and Staten Island,[60] focusing on concerns around the Affordable Care Act.[61]

In February, some Staten Island residents[which?] hosted their own Town Hall. The hosts said Donovan had been invited but did not attend.[62] Instead, he offered a Tele-Town Hall, which prompted additional protests.[63]

During the April Congressional recess, Donovan again offered a "tele-Town Hall"[64] while, two days later, another activist group, Fight Back Bay Ridge, planned a Congressional Town Hall on Donovan's behalf.[clarification needed][65] Though organizers said they had invited Donovan to participate, he declined the in-person invitation.[66] The event, which reached standing-room capacity of about 200 people, was livestreamed on Facebook to an audience of over 2,100 viewers.[67] The event, despite Donovan's concerns of disruption, was reported to be civil and educational.[68]


  1. ^ Gray, Geoffrey (September 19, 2010). "110 Minutes With Republican Attorney General Candidate Dan Donovan". New York. Retrieved May 6, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Half-Polish & Catholic AG candidate wants NY Polish community to know his background". Archived from the original on December 21, 2010. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  3. ^ a b "Meet Dan Donovan". Donovan New York Attorney General. Archived from the original on July 10, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Richmond County District Attorneys Office". Rcda.nyc.gov. January 1, 2004. Retrieved May 6, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "DA Donovan Set To Announce AG Run". ny1.com. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved 2017-05-04. 
  6. ^ "Board of Elections in the City of New York". Vote.nyc.ny.us. Retrieved May 6, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Daniel Donovan swimming upstream in bid for state office". Staten Island Advance. May 30, 2010. Retrieved May 6, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Staten Island DA Donovan survives challenge". New York Daily News. November 7, 2007. Retrieved May 6, 2015. 
  9. ^ "S.I. Borough President Backs Ex-Aide's Rival". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Dan Donovan versus Method Man". Archived from the original on July 3, 2010. Retrieved July 13, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Eric Garner Prosecutor Accused Of 'Doubling Down On Race-Baiting' In Congressional Campaign". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Meet Dan Donovan, the Prosecutor Who Let Eric Garner's Killer Walk". The Daily Beast. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Daniel Donovan Gets Wary Welcome to Congress After Eric Garner Case". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Dan Donovan, prosecutor in Eric Garner death case, wins House seat". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  15. ^ "It Wasn't Just the Chokehold". The New York Times. December 5, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Federal grand jury hears evidence in Eric Garner chokehold case". Village Voice. Retrieved January 10, 2018. 
  17. ^ "DA didn't ask for reckless endangerment in Eric Garner case". New York Daily News. Retrieved November 28, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Petition pressure on Dan Donovan to release Garner records". New York Daily News. Retrieved November 28, 2016. 
  19. ^ Wrobleski, Tom (May 17, 2010). Staten Island D.A. Daniel Donovan announces A.G. run, vows to fight corruption in Albany. Staten Island Advance. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  20. ^ Mariani, Tom (May 17, 2010). Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan to declare attorney general candidacy in Syracuse, The Post-Standard; retrieved July 13, 2010.
  21. ^ Knauss, Tim (June 2, 2010). Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan to declare attorney general candidacy in Syracuse, The Post-Standard; retrieved July 13, 2010.
  22. ^ "NYS Republicans nominate Dan Donovan as their candidate for Attorney General". Archived from the original on August 9, 2010. Retrieved September 23, 2010. ; retrieved July 13, 2010.
  23. ^ Hornak, Robert (May 31, 2010). State Conservative Party Meets: Endorse Townsend, DioGuardi, Donovan, Wilson and (Surprise!) Rick Lazio Archived December 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.; retrieved July 13, 2010.
  24. ^ Shapiro, Rachel (May 5, 2015). Staten Island special election 2015: Dan Donovan wins Congress seat. Staten Island Advance; retrieved May 5, 2015.
  25. ^ Katinas, Paula (May 11, 2015). "Donovan To Be Sworn Into Office May 12". Brooklyn Eagle. Retrieved May 12, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Democrat Richard Reichard to challenge Rep. Dan Donovan". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 2016-10-26. 
  27. ^ a b c "Grimm lobs grenade into GOP primary with Trump pardon claim". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  28. ^ a b c d Weigel, David (2018-06-23). "Should a felon serve in the House? That's the question for Staten Island Republicans". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-06-24. 
  29. ^ "Members". Republican Mains Street Partnership. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  30. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Retrieved 11 June 2018. 
  31. ^ Bycoffe, Aaron (2017-01-30). "Tracking Daniel M. Donovan Jr. In The Age Of Trump". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 2017-04-22. 
  32. ^ "Represent". ProPublica. Retrieved 2017-04-22. 
  33. ^ The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index (PDF), The Lugar Center, March 7, 2016, retrieved April 30, 2017 
  34. ^ "Grimm makes first ad buy against Trump-backed Donovan as race tightens". Politico PRO. Retrieved 2018-06-24. 
  35. ^ "McCourt School Bipartisan Index" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: The Lugar Center. April 24, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2018. 
  36. ^ "Dan Donovan's Issue Positions (Political Courage Test)". Vote Smart. Retrieved January 10, 2018. 
  37. ^ "NYC GOP Rep: 'New York Values Are a Little Bit More Loyal Than Ted Cruz's Values'". Observer. 2016-07-21. Retrieved 2018-04-05. 
  38. ^ "GOP Congressman: Donald Trump 'Resonating With Voters'". Observer. 2015-08-27. Retrieved 2018-04-05. 
  39. ^ "Trump endorses Rep. Dan Donovan who he mistakenly says voted for tax bill". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-05-31. 
  40. ^ Barkan, Ross (2017-03-03). "Staten Island's Republican Congressman Suddenly Not So Eager to Repeal Obamacare". Village Voice. Retrieved 2017-04-22. 
  41. ^ Shapiro, Rachel (2017-05-04). "Rep. Dan Donovan: GOP health care bill 'simply unfair' to NYC". SILive.com. Retrieved 2018-01-07. 
  42. ^ "New York City's lone GOP congressman backs Trump's executive order". Politico PRO. Retrieved 2018-04-05. 
  43. ^ Blake, Aaron. "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump's travel ban; here's where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved January 30, 2017. 
  44. ^ "Donovan Votes for "Kate's Law," Enhancing Penalties for Deported Felons Who Return to U.S." house.gov. June 29, 2017. Retrieved January 11, 2018. 
  45. ^ a b "Feds threaten millions in funding cuts to NYC for being 'sanctuary city'". SILive.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  46. ^ "Rep. Donovan to introduce bill punishing 'sanctuary cities'". SILive.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  47. ^ "Protestors push Rep. Dan Donovan on separating families". SILive.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  48. ^ "Donovan Gets Backing Of Log Cabin Republicans". www.nystateofpolitics.com. 
  49. ^ "LGBT Leaders Gang Up on Donovan on Gay Marriage". www.nystateofpolitics.com. Retrieved 2017-04-22. 
  50. ^ "114th Congressional Scorecard" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved December 21, 2017. 
  51. ^ "Working to Reform Marijuana Laws". NORML. Retrieved January 10, 2018. 
  52. ^ Almukhtar, Sarah (December 19, 2017). "How Each House Member Voted on the Tax Bill". The New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2017. 
  53. ^ Segers, Grace. "Comparing GOP lawmakers' statements on the tax plan". City & State New York. Retrieved December 21, 2017. 
  54. ^ Daniel, Donovan (2018-06-08). "Text - H.R.6054 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018". congress.gov. Retrieved 2018-07-11. 
  55. ^ Birnbaum, Emily (2018-07-10). "'Unmasking Antifa Act' includes 15-year prison term proposal". TheHill. Retrieved 2018-07-11. 
  56. ^ "Antifa Activists Are Freaking Out About a Proposed 'Unmasking' Law". Vice. 2018-07-10. Retrieved 2018-07-11. 
  57. ^ "Letters to the Editor: Forum of D.C. reps in Brooklyn brings out blasts at Donovan". Brooklyn Eagle. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  58. ^ "'You Don't Represent Us': Bay Ridge Congressman Targeted By Protesters At Chamber of Commerce Forum". Gothamist. Archived from the original on June 21, 2017. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  59. ^ "Protestors slam Rep. Donovan outside Dyker office". Brooklyn Daily. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  60. ^ "Islanders rally at Donovan's office, demand to be heard on health care". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  61. ^ Miller, Carly (2017-02-21). "'Where's The Plan, Dan?' Southern Brooklynites Protest Donovan's Stance Against ACA". bklyner.com. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  62. ^ "Town Hall on Staten Island Addresses Concerns Over Health Care". TWC News. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  63. ^ "Sidewalk Sit-in at Donovan Tele-town Hall". New York. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  64. ^ Miller, Carly (April 12, 2017). "Donovan To Host Tele-Town Hall; Bay Ridge Activists Host Live Town Hall". Retrieved May 4, 2017. 
  65. ^ "Fight Back Bay Ridge leaders hope town hall is springboard". Brooklyn Eagle. Retrieved May 4, 2017. 
  66. ^ "Donovan refuses invitation to upcoming constituent-organized town hall in Bay Ridge". Brooklynreporter.com. 2017-04-12. Retrieved 2017-05-04. 
  67. ^ "Security Check Required". Retrieved May 4, 2017 – via Facebook. 
  68. ^ Miller, Carly (April 21, 2017). "Sparks Fly Across The Aisle As Bay Ridge Hosts Town Hall In Lieu Of Congressman". bklyner.com. Retrieved May 4, 2017. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
James Molinaro
Deputy Borough President of Staten Island
2002 – 2003
Succeeded by
Edward Burke
Legal offices
Preceded by
William L. Murphy
District Attorney of Richmond County
January 1, 2004 – May 12, 2015
Succeeded by
Daniel L. Master, Jr.
as Acting
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Michael Grimm
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th congressional district

May 5, 2015 – present
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Lee Zeldin
R-New York
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Trent Kelly
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jeanine Pirro
Republican Nominee for Attorney General of New York
Succeeded by
John P. Cahill