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Golden, Gounardes Spar over Immigration, Sex Abuse at Dyker Debate

Round 2 was even more explosive than Round 1.

All of the anger and bitterness in the race between Republican state Sen. Martin Golden and his Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes spilled out into the open in their second major debate Tuesday night, Oct. 9, as the two men traded personal insults and sparred over immigrant rights, how best to help sex abuse victims, and other hot-button issues.

And the audience, comprised largely of partisans aligned with each camp, got into the act, alternately cheering, booing and chanting the name of their favorite candidate as the evening wore on.

At one point during a discussion on immigration, Gounardes charged that Golden, a Republican representing a swathe of Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Marine Park, has a history of making derogatory comments about Arab-Americans. “You’re a liar!” Golden shouted.

“It’s sad you really want to send him to the New York State Senate,” Golden told Democrats in the audience.

“I think we got under Marty’s collar a little bit,” Gounardes said near the end.

The debate, sponsored by the Dyker Heights Civic Association, came a week after Golden and Gounardes went head-to-head in front of the Bay Ridge Interagency Council on Aging. But the Bay Ridge debate, while also heated, turned out to be a mere warm-up act for Tuesday.

“If you are happy with the status quo, you have your guy,” Gounardes said, referring to Golden.

“If you want more crime and more taxes, Andrew is your man!” Golden said.

Golden, a retired police officer, was first elected to the state Senate in 2002 and is seeking re-election on Nov. 6. Gounardes, a lawyer who serves as chief counsel to Borough President Eric Adams, ran against Golden in 2012 and lost.

Golden and Gounardes had starkly different views on the problems facing the immigrant community in the district. The Bay Ridge portion of the district has a large population of immigrants from the Middle East. Other areas of the district, Bensonhurst in particular, have many Asian immigrants.

Gounardes vowed that if elected, he would stand up for immigrants, whom he said are often the victims of harassment and intimidation. “We’re all immigrants. We all come from someplace else,” he said.

Golden said that while there are some problems, there is not an epidemic of violence against immigrants. “Andrew would paint it as if it’s a tremendous number,” he said. “Our immigrants are safe here. We have the greatest police department in the country.”

A question from the audience sparked a round of fireworks over the rights of New Yorkers who were sexually abused as children, in some cases by Catholic priests, and are now seeking restitution.

Golden did not take a position on the Child Victims Act, a bill that would extend the statute of limitations to age 50 for adults who were sex abuse victims when they were children and are now seeking to sue their abusers in civil court for damages. Under current law, a sex abuse survivor is prohibited from filing a lawsuit after age 23.

Instead, Golden said he favored another bill, called the Child Victims Fund, which would set up a financial fund to pay damages to sex abuse survivors. The bill contains a provision, however, that would prevent victims from suing institutions like the Catholic Church for allegedly protecting abusers in cases that took place years ago.

“We should do the right thing. The fund is the right thing,” Golden said.

Gounardes, who supports the Child Victims Act, spoke out against the Child Victims Fund. “I don’t think taxpayers should be responsible” for the actions of abusers, he said.

When Golden questioned whether his rival would vote for the Child Victims Act, Gounardes seemed insulted. “Of course, I would support the Child Victims Act. Do your homework, Marty!” he said.

Golden touted his long years of experience and his ability to deliver results for his constituents as the reasons residents should vote for him.

The incumbent said he has pushed for legislation to combat illegal home conversions, successfully created a tax credit for film companies that shoot in New York and create jobs, and worked to restore weekend service on the X-27 express bus. Golden told the audience that he has brought millions of dollars in state funds back to his district to help pay for senior citizen programs, schools and other items.

“I’m proud of my record,” Golden said.

Gounardes argued that what Golden brought back to the district in terms of funding was just “the bare minimum” and was indistinguishable from what any other state lawmaker would do.

The challenger urged the audience to “look at how we can do it differently” and consider trying fresh ideas.

“Southern Brooklyn is a gem, but we are not immune to problems. We’re not going to solve those problems doing the same thing over and over again,” he said.

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