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

10/17/2012 9:00 AM |


What did you think of him as a debate opponent?
He got very hotheaded. Did you get a chance to look at the video? He got very hotheaded. I think he has [no] history with people calling him out on the truth and I think at times his relationship with the truth is very superficial. There were several points where I called his record into question and he was taken aback because I don’t think he expected someone to actually go back and look at what he’s actually done, his voting record, the positions he’s taken in the past.

Like what?
Well, one questioner asked him, “do you agree with Todd Akin’s comments, as a fellow Republican, that rape victims should not receive emergency contraception?” And at first he pretended not to hear it. “What do you mean?” This and that. It was actually… one of the papers covered it like that, they said he pretended not to hear it even though he understood. And he said, “yeah, of course they should get support. They should get emergency contraception.” And then I said, “well, Marty, why did you vote against it three times in the last 10 years?” And he was just stunned because he got caught. He got caught saying one thing and doing the other. And that’s been his MO for a while: he says one thing on Third Avenue and when he goes up to Albany and the cameras are off, he does just the opposite.

Again, last night, we were at a candidate’s forum, and we didn’t debate each other, he went first and I went second. And one of the questioners asked him, “do you support the NYPD’s policy of spying on Muslims in their mosques while they pray as an anti-terrorism measure?” And he said, “absolutely not. The NYPD should not be spying on anyone, in a synagogue, a mosque or a church anywhere in this country.” But just last year he sent a letter to Commissioner Kelly praising him for the NYPD spying program that was uncovered by the AP that includes them spying on Muslims when they’re praying in mosques! I think he’s trying to have it both ways. I think he didn’t think that anyone in that room knew about that letter. Some of the people knew about that letter. He probably didn’t think that I had done my homework and found that letter. But again, he says one thing and does the other.

So, I found him to be a very good debate opponent. Obviously things got very heated, and that’s because I think he’s not used to have people call him into question. And, hey, if you’ve been around for 10 years and never had anyone hold your feet to the fire, you get kind of comfortable, you get kind of cozy that way. I can see why someone gets frustrated if someone else comes up and says, “hey, hold on a second, you didn’t do X, Y and Z as you just said. Or you did X, Y and Z, but the real problems are A, B and C.” I can see why he’d get very frustrated with that, he’d get very angry at that.

Did you see the vice president debate?
I had the forum at PS 170, and I’m fighting a cold, so I didn’t want to stay up late. I skipped the whole debate. I heard Biden did pretty well.

Yeah, it was funny. I mean, Joe Biden’s such a…. he’s a good guy to have in your corner.
I met him in 2006. He came to campaign for Bob Menendez. And my job was to drive him around all day. So from like six in the morning til 10 at night it was me, him and his staff member. Best day of my life. The best day of my life. He was such a genuine person. So warm and so fun. And I drove around Ted Kennedy, I drove around John Kerry, I drove around a lot of people. He was the most fun. At the end of the night, he took off his cufflinks from his shirt and gave them to me. He probably does that for everyone he sees, but you know what? I felt, I still feel like a million bucks when I think about that. It was great. They say “Joseph R. Biden III, U.S. Senate.” I have Joe Biden’s cufflinks. And no one can take that away from me.

Do you have any French-cuff shirts?
Oh yeah. I’m probably gonna wear them on Election Day, just as a good luck charm. I think that’ll be good. The second best person to drive around was Ted Kennedy. He was fun also. I pick him up from the airport. I go to Teterboro. And he was old at the time. And he gets off the plane, and this is like seven in the morning, and it looks like somebody woke him up in the middle of the night and just threw him on a plane. Didn’t tell him where he was going. His hair was disheveled, he was all a mess. Here I am, I’m like 21 years-old, about to pick up this guy. It’s Ted Kennedy. And he looks like this. You know? What do you say? How do you act? So I’m driving very nervously and he’s hosting a radio call-in before we go to our first stop. So he’s sitting in the car, and he’s like slumped over, he’s like half-sleeping or whatever. His staffer gets the guy on the phone, he sets up the phone interview, gives him the phone, he holds it out. And he pats his hair and shakes his head and puts the phone to the ear and then non-stop, 20 minutes, he was just spitballing, attack after attack. I’d never seen anything like that. He just turned it on. He was unbelievable, like the Ted Kennedy, you know, you read about, and I was just in awe. It was pretty cool.

It’s fun to drive Ted Kennedy around, but it’s probably not fun to given driven around by him.
Yeah, that’s true. [Laughs] That’s very true. Then him and his wife got into a fight about his seatbelt. He was trying to put his seatbelt on; he couldn’t get the buckle. His wife was trying to help him. “I can do it! Leave me alone!” You know, arguing. You don’t want to get in the middle of that type of fight, right? He was fun, though.

I mean, I started working local politics, but when I started doing the national stuff is when I really got into it, into really enjoying this as a sport, as a game. And exposure to that at the national level was what kind of sealed the deal for me to go down this road. I mean, working on The Hill and everything else, and now starting up myself… So, we’ll see how far it goes. But that—that was incredible.