By Thomas Tracy
A longtime Democratic state legislator who lost a bid to unseat Rep. Vito Fossella in 2004 is hitching his wagon to Bay Ridge attorney Steve Harrison, the incumbent’s current challenger. Frank Barbaro, the 80-year-old longshoreman turned state legislator who represented residents in Bensonhurst and Gravesend for 24 years before taking up a judgeship in 1997, endorsed Harrison during a press conference at the Staten Island Ferry. During an interview with this paper, Barbaro said that he decided to back Harrison because they share common ideologies. “Steve is in agreement with me on a couple of basic issues and as a result of that I decided to go with him,” Barbaro said during an interview with this paper, adding that he was in sync with the candidate’s demand for the military’s immediate withdrawal from Iraq, as well as the protection of Social Security and health insurance reform. “I think that Harrison is in touch with the grass roots voters, plus he got a tremendous vote two years ago with almost no money,” he said. Barbaro retired from the bench in 2003, but was encouraged to run against Fossella in 2004, becoming the first Democrat to garner 40 percent of the vote against the Republican incumbent. Harrison lost to Fossella in 2006 and announced earlier this year that he plans to run for the 13th Congressional District again. But with each passing week, it is becoming more and more likely that Harrison will be facing a heated primary against Coney Island City Councilmember Domenic Recchia, who has all but officially announced that he is running for office. Barbaro had nothing negative to say about Recchia, who had been accused of helping to torpedo his 2004 campaign from inside Democratic ranks. The allegations stemmed from comments made by former Staten Island City Councilmember and current State Senator Andrew Lanza, who claimed that Recchia had passed along strategic information about Frank Barbaro’s run for Congress through him to incumbent Fossella. Recchia has denied the allegation, claiming that he wasn’t part of Barbaro’s campaign and had spent that year helping State Senator Diane Savino win her seat. Barbaro said that he didn’t know about the alleged “insider trading” until just a few weeks ago and is keeping an open mind about it. “I know Domenic Recchia, he and I are friends,” Barbaro said. “I’m not going to accept what’s been said without some compelling evidence. You have to give him the presumption of innocence.” While he and Recchia are friends, Barbaro said that they don’t agree on several key principals. “In the end, you have to go on the issues,” he said.