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Garner Prosecutor Formally Enters NY Congressional Race

Dan Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney who failed to obtain an indictment of New York police officers for Eric Garner’s death, has formally announced that he will run for the seat to replace Rep. Michael Grimm.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Donovan said enthusiasm for his candidacy "has only broadened" in the past week, persuading him to run for the Republican nomination.

The news comes one day after another potential Republican challenger, New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, met with the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington.

After the meeting Malliotakis told NBC News that she was "encouraged" and would “continue to explore and go through the process” of obtaining the nomination.

An aide at the NRCC said Rep. Greg Walden, the head of the organization tasked with electing Republicans to Congress, spoke on the phone with Donovan earlier in the week and was “impressed.”

Donovan’s entry into the race will draw attention to Republican Party’s image when it comes to race issues, as Democrats would likely make the Garner case an issue should Donovan win the nomination.

The NRCC said it would back either candidate.

"Both Dan Donovan and Nicole Malliotakis would be excellent candidates in the eventual special election and we look forward to working with whichever one ends up securing the Republican nomination," spokesman Ian Prior said.

The New York Daily News has reported that Donovan is backed by the head of the Staten Island Republican Party, a critical component of gaining the nomination. Malliotakis is supported by the Brooklyn head of the Republican Party, who is not as influential in the nominating process.

Grimm resigned from his seat this week after being indicted for felony tax evasion. The 11th district spans Staten Island and a small portion of Brooklyn.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will determine the date of the election to replace Grimm. If he chooses to call a special election, it must take place between 70 and 120 days from the date he calls for a special election. If he doesn't call for one, an election will occur on Election Day in November.

IN DEPTH

Leigh Ann Caldwell