Wednesday, October 17, 2012

State Senate Candidate Andrew Gounardes Interview Part I: "I Went to the Jay-Z Concert and Waited 45 Minutes for an R Train!"

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 9:00 AM

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Andrew Gounardes is running for the New York State Senate in the 22nd district, which covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gerrtisen Beach, Marine Park, and parts of Gravesend and Sheepshead Bay. The seat has been held by Republican Marty Golden since 2002. Golden usually runs unopposed; in 2010, a Democrat finally challenged him—with no money and no support. He won a third of the vote anyway. Gounardes, who's campaigning hard and has raised some money, is thought to have a real shot.

The 27-year-old has a law degree from George Washington University; he's non-practicing but has passed the bar in New York and New Jersey. He worked for Senator Bob Menendez for four years, first on his campaign in New Jersey and then at his office in D.C. "I started answering phones," he said, "and worked my way up the ladder to doing policy work."

He and I met at Pegasus diner on Third Avenue on October 12; he ordered a cup of cream of turkey and a Greek salad with chicken. We talked for an hour about Golden's record, state politics, fair pay, mass transit, and the ways Bay Ridge has changed and is changing—including its growing LGBT community. (The order of some questions-and-answers has been changed.) This is part one of that conversation. Part two—in which I ask him about the neighborhood's hot-button issues (hipsters, bike lanes, Brooklyn 11223, the food truck wars) as well as whether he's avoiding Bagel Boy because they have a Marty Golden poster in the window—will appear tomorrow.

When did you first decide to run against Marty Golden?
Last year I was looking around and I thought, no one's gone after Golden because he's been there for so long. You know, there was that candidate who ran against him less than two years ago, but he really didn't have much behind him: no money, no support, no volunteers, no anything. And I just think Marty's taken so many bad votes. Increasingly bad votes, year after year after year, and no one calls him out on it, no one holds him accountable. And if no one else is gonna run, well, I'll do it.

What "bad votes" in particular?
There was his vote against fair pay last year, which I thought was and still is completely ridiculous. And his excuse for it I find to be very offensive, frankly: "we can't afford to pay men and women the same." His vote against marriage equality. And not only his vote against it but his opposition... he took the lead in opposing marriage equality. He introduced DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law prohibiting same-sex marriages] in the state senate the day after the governor proposed his marriage equality bill. It's one thing to have a position against it; I understand that. But this is a historic vote, and he led the opposition. He'll go down in New York State history as being the lead opposition to marriage equality. And that's an... infamous position to have, I guess.

And just in general, his lack of support, or his full support for the Republican agenda in Albany, which is hostile to New York City. On schools, on public transportation. You know, he sent out glossy mailers saying he's done all these great things for bus and train service and for our schools. But in reality, Senate Republicans, they are... You ask anybody who works up in Albany, you know, in the press, they tell you that they are actively hostile against New York City. It's like they have something against us. And he votes with Dean Skelos [the State Senate Republican Majority Leader from Nassau County] 99 percent of the time. So you can't tell me that he's being a fighter for Brooklyn when he's doing Dean Skelos's bidding. And I actually think he gives Dean Skelos cover to keep screwing over New York City. He says, "well, Marty Golden is with me, and he's from New York City, so I must be doing something right." No! It's just the opposite. Marty Golden's with you and he's hurting our neighborhoods.

Do you see that as the fundamental difference between you and him?
Absolutely. I think I can do a better job standing-up-for-our-neighborhoods than he's done. I think he does just the bare minimum to get his picture in the paper, and he takes the votes that are non-controversial, that gets him good press, but we really need more than a photo-op senator.

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