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

10/18/2012 9:00 AM |


Your parents speak Greek?
They do. But they’re also both born here, so their Greek, while good, is not authentic, it’s not 100 percent. My grandfather came here almost 100 years ago, so I’m third-generation.

Are your parents from Bay Ridge?
My mom was from Ohio; my dad was from Astoria. My mom moved here when she was a teenager and they settled in Bay Ridge.

What do they do?
My mom’s an assistant principal at PS 170. And she taught there for 16 years. And my dad has a dental practice up the block here, where my office is. [My campaign has an office] in his basement. And he’s been there for about 30 years. The whole family’s very involved in the church, the Greek church here, Ridge Boulevard. Very active there. My dad was president of the parish council, my mom was on the school board, I went to the Greek school here for 10 years. So, that community’s very strongly tied to me and my family.

The Greek community’s been a strong source of support for your campaign, right?
Yeah, very strong. There’s about 4,000 Greek voters in the district, which is enough to sway an election. And they’ve been very supportive of me financially, as well. I’ve raised $250,000; a lot of that money’s come from the Greek community. And others, but primarily the Greek community, the local Greek community. Which has been great. That’s a lot of support, obviously. And Greeks like to support their own, as any community does. It’s their chance.

Do they traditionally vote Democratic?
They’re mixed. But they vote for their own, whoever that may be, whatever that may be, for the most part. So I think we’ll get 90 percent of the Greek vote, easily.

How many voters are there total in the district?
Registered, there’s 140,000. But actually gonna vote this year? About 85,000. That will actually vote in my election? Just under 80,000. So I need about 40,000 votes to win.

Do you think Obama’s going to help or hurt you?
I think it’s neutral. I think he gets me some votes; I think he loses me some votes.

So it evens out?
Yeah. But again, that’s why I put such a premium on talking to people one-on-one. Because I want people to vote for me because of me, not because I’m on Obama’s ticket or not on Obama’s ticket. My campaign this week crossed the 100,000-door threshold. We’ve knocked on more than 100,000 doors already. And that does not include me talking to 17,000 people, or knocking on 17,000 doors. So it’s that direct personal contact that really makes the difference and will get people to cross ballot lines. Maybe they’ll vote Romney-Gounardes, maybe they’ll vote Obama… or, if they’re voting Obama, they’re probably voting for me anyway. But we can probably get some of those Republicans, or disaffected Democrats who’re voting Romney at the national level but are gonna vote for me at the local level. It sounds cliche, but the argument for change and fresher perspectives—you hear it every four years? I think it’s really playing very strongly here in this district right now. Me vs. Golden. I think the contrast between us, both physically, visibly, and between our campaigns politically is very stark. And people respond to that and see that there is a need for change. They get that.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

[photos from, also here, here, here]