NEW YORK – A Republican congressman from New York City apologized to his family and constituents Friday for his drunken driving arrest after a night on the town with New Yorkers who were in Washington for the Giants' White House celebration.
Vito J. Fossella, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, was arrested outside Washington early Thursday after a dinner celebrating the football team's meeting with President Bush to honor this year's Super Bowl win. He said he was heading to meet some friends in Virginia when he was pulled over in Alexandria.
Court records show that Fossella, who was charged with drunken driving, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17 percent. If he is convicted, he will have to serve a mandatory five days in jail due to a minimum that kicks in for levels above 0.15 percent.
Pleading forgiveness at a news conference in Staten Island, he said he failed to set an example and deeply regrets his actions.
"This was an error in judgment," he said. "This was a mistake I will never make again."
Fossella said he would not resign. He would not comment on the specifics of the case.
"Politics right now is the last thing on my mind. Right now, it's the embarrassment I caused my family, my friends and the people of this community," he said.
The arrest could complicate a re-election bid this year for Fossella, who is New York City's only Republican representative in Congress.
The Democratic party has eyed Fossella as a potential target in elections this year, when Republicans were already expecting an uphill fight. Two Democrats are competing in a primary for the chance to unseat him.
Political consultant Mike Paul, who has served as an aide to Republicans including former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, said Fossella has already taken the right first step by not waiting to speak publicly.
"Long term, this is a flash in the pan," Paul said. "He's got to handle it the right way and get back on his message."
Even though Fossella has spoken out against President Bush on some issues like the Iraq war, the national Republican leadership has rallied to lend him a hand in his re-election campaign, sending Vice President Dick Cheney to endorse him recently.
Fossella won the seat in a 1997 special election while serving on the City Council.