The Democratic challenger peered into the camera, primed to deliver his closing argument in a debate colored by accusations of fraud at a health food restaurant, tussles over who is “more Staten Island” and schoolyard jabs that almost certainly sounded sharper in a given candidate’s head.
“You tell me, since you know so much,” the Democrat, Domenic M. Recchia Jr., said when his opponent asked him about federal money for Hurricane Sandy relief.
But then, as Mr. Recchia reminded the audience as often as possible, that opponent is Representative Michael G. Grimm of Staten Island.
“We are represented by someone who has a criminal indictment pending, 20 counts,” Mr. Recchia said near the start of his closing statement. “In addition to that, he threatened to throw a reporter off the balcony.”
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Such is the state of affairs in New York’s 11th Congressional District, which has drawn national attention to Mr. Recchia, whose inelegant exposition recently helped inspire a segment on “The Daily Show,” and Mr. Grimm, the Republican incumbent facing an exhaustive federal indictment that is perhaps the second-most famous thing about him. (The balcony episode, which unspooled while a NY1 camera rolled in January, retains the top spot, at least until his trial begins.)
Domenic M. Recchia Jr., a former councilman from Brooklyn.CreditRobert Stolarik for The New York Times
In the half-hour debate, hosted on Friday by WABC-TV (Channel 7), the candidates largely played to type, at times appearing to relish the event’s devolution into shouting. Mr. Grimm, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent once nicknamed “Mikey Suits” for his sartorial leanings, was the more polished jouster. Mr. Recchia, a former city councilman, seemed to speak mostly in exclamation points.
When Mr. Grimm argued that, as a Democrat, Mr. Recchia “won’t even be at the table when big issues are coming up,” Mr. Recchia bellowed at least four times, “You’re not at the table!”
“How would you know?” Mr. Grimm asked between grins. “You’re not in Congress.”
“Let’s not get into another shouting match,” the moderator, the news anchor Diana Williams, said plaintively from across a glass table.
Even before the debate, attack lines in the race, an apparent tossup less than three weeks before Election Day on Nov. 4, have vacillated between unsubtle and befuddling.
Mr. Recchia released an ad last month listing the counts against his rival, who was indicted in April on federal charges that he hired undocumented immigrants at his Manhattan health-food restaurant, Healthalicious, and lied about it to federal investigators.
Mr. Grimm, whose district encompasses Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, said on Friday that he would resign if found guilty of those charges, adding that he was “entitled to my day in court, just like anyone else.” His lawyers have cast the indictment as a witch hunt.
Discussions of Ebola preparations and a past proposal to add tolls to East River bridges were eventually steered back to the indictment, as Mr. Recchia suggested that Mr. Grimm had a pattern of misrepresenting the truth.
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Mr. Recchia did not try to reprise a widely mocked…