State Senate Candidate Andrew Gounardes Interview Part II: “A Williamsburg Culture Doesn’t Suit Bay Ridge”

10/18/2012 9:00 AM |

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How come people don’t run against him?
I don’t know. I don’t know.

Is it scary running against Marty Golden?
Is it scary? No. I have nothing to lose. I really don’t. Even if I do lose, I’m not gonna “lose.” Part of the problem, I think, speaking as somebody within the party now: there isn’t really a bench of people looking to get into politics right now. There’s a few people thinking about it, but we don’t have a strong bench. Even though this is a very civically active neighborhood—we have so many community groups who do so many different things—we’re not very politically active. We don’t have a lot of competitive elections, we don’t have competitive primaries like other parts of Brooklyn or other parts of the city. And that feeds into the idea that we don’t have people who want to run.

I think it’s important. I think politics is very important. Yeah, it can be dirty and nasty and mean and whatever, but politics is everything. It determines whether we get our streets paved or not, or whether we get a bus on the avenue or not, you know? Or whether we can build a new school. Politics is everything. And we shouldn’t shy away from that. At all. Because it’s really important!

It’s also not just a Bay Ridge race. How are you doing in the rest of the district?
Very, very well. We are doing extremely well across this entire district: very well in Dyker Heights, very well in Bensonhurst. These are one-time Republican neighborhoods that have become very Democratic, especially with the large increases in the immigrant population. Twenty-five percent of my district is Asian, which is extremely high. There’s a growing Guatemalan population in Bath Beach that no one probably knows about; they’re opening a brand-new Guatemalan church on 18th Avenue. So there’s large numbers of immigrants moving into these neighborhoods that are changing the demographics and the political ideology of these neighborhoods. Even out in Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach, where Golden has long-time been very, very well-known, and where he won significantly in 2002—that’s how he beat Vinny Gentile was by spending so much time in Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach—those neighborhoods have changed as well. They know who he is, but he hasn’t been around.

But not only that, these are neighborhoods, especially Gerritsen Beach, that are primarily union households, even Republicans. These are guys that are sandhogs, carpenters, or electricians or plumbers or painters or whatever, and Golden crossed a picket line last year. For these union guys, these union households, that’s the first amendment: Thou Shalt Not Cross a Picket Line. No matter whose union it is. So we feel pretty good about our strength that we’re growing out there. And the numbers that we’re getting back from our canvassers—we have 30 people a night canvassing the neighborhoods for me—are phenomenal. They’re very, very strong.

It seems like southeastern Brooklyn has been turning more Republican, like where Bob Turner and David Storobin have recently won elections. Does that worry you?
Most of those areas where they did well are right outside of my district, not in my district. It doesn’t worry me too much because I’m spending a lot of face time with voters. A campaign like Bob Turner or David Storobin ran succeeds when the candidates are not visible, and it’s just based on mail and media. I’ve knocked on… I believe I’m at just under 17,000 doors personally throughout the entire district. So people get to meet me and talk to me. They don’t just see my picture on a mailer or get an attack mailer from my opponent that says Andrew Gounardes is a bad guy. They know who I am. They talk to me. It’s hard to convince someone that I’m going to destroy their neighborhoods when they see me, you know? After they’ve met me.

But again, this is a very diverse district, it has a lot of different viewpoints, and I’m trying to be accessible and accountable to everybody. I don’t hide the fact that I’m a progressive Democrat, but I’m also a common-sense Democrat who wants to get things done. And to me getting things done is more important than just adhering to pure ideology. That’s not how we get things done in this country. The system’s not set up for that. So I have my views and my beliefs, but I’m willing to work and make compromises wherever necessary to make things happen for the neighborhoods I want to represent.