© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Garner Case Behind Him, Donovan Takes Oath Of Office In Congress


As Congress debates Amtrak funding, they're joined by a new member from the Northeast Corridor. Republican Dan Donovan was sworn into the House this week. He represents New York City, including Staten Island. Donovan's predecessor, Michael Grimm, resigned earlier this year after a guilty plea for tax fraud. Congressman Donovan has dealt with a very different kind of controversy. Here's NPR congressional reporter Juana Summers.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Dan Donovan is known as a law-and-order DA on Staten Island and has a reputation for being a straight shooter. But for many across the country, he's defined not by his law enforcement background or the work he's done to combat crimes like domestic violence and drug abuse. Instead, he's known for the investigation his office did into the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Donovan convened the grand jury that decided not to indict the police officers involved. The son of a longshoreman and a factory worker, Donovan grew up in a three-room apartment in the same neighborhood where Garner died. He's defended the handling of the Garner case as he did in an interview the day he was sworn into Congress.


REPRESENTATIVE DAN DONOVAN: I think all you have to do is look at the election results to see that the people in the 11th Congressional District overwhelmingly elected me. So although the Eric Garner matter and the investigation into Eric's death was something that we were responsible for in my office, I think people looked at my entire record and overwhelmingly just elected me to Congress.

SUMMERS: Though Garner's death sparked demonstrations across the country, it played surprisingly little part in the race to represent this district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. Neither Donovan nor his opponent, Democrat Vince Gentile, made it a focus of their campaigns. In Donovan's victory speech, he said his election was a reproach to national Democrats and to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is not well-liked on Staten Island.


DONOVAN: You sent a message to President Obama, to Nancy Pelosi and yes, even to Bill de Blasio. That their policies are wrong for our nation, they're wrong for our city, and they're wrong for the community of the 11th Congressional District.


SUMMERS: Donovan was a narcotics prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office before Guy Molinari. Then, the Staten Island borough president recruited him to serve as chief of staff. Molinari says he thinks of Donovan like a son.

GUY MOLINARI: Well, he was very, very important to me, and he took charge of the office. We were a very busy office. And we did many big things to Staten Island, like closing the garbage dump, which is probably the biggest thing that ever happened to Staten Island, positively.

SUMMERS: Donovan was elected district attorney in 2003, and in 2010, ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general. While he'll be shifting gears from prosecuting cases to serving in Congress, there's another change in the works. He'll soon be a full-time dad. Donovan and his fiance are expecting their first child in less than two weeks. Juana Summers, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.