The Reform Party of New York State, led by radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa, is backing Republican Marc Molinaro for governor, but it’s the party’s endorsement in a down ballot race that is the talk of Brooklyn politics.
Sliwa, who is the party’s state chairperson, and Bob Capano, who heads the Kings County Reform Party, are snubbing Republican state Sen. Martin Golden and are supporting his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gounardes, in the Nov. 6 election.
Golden is running for re-election in the 22nd Senate District, a seat that takes in parts of several neighborhoods across Southwest Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach. Golden was first elected to the state Senate in 2002.
Capano, who was born and raised in Bay Ridge, and who was a longtime Republican before joining the Reform Party, said the reason for his support for Gounardes can be summed up in two words: term limits.
“I and the Reform Party are firm believers in term limits. After 16 years with the same person in the Senate, it’s time for a change. Andrew Gounardes is a Bay Ridge guy. He is a pragmatic, sensible Democrat. He is the right choice this time,” Capano told this newspaper.
Capano said he got to know Gounardes years ago when he served as a top aide to Marty Markowitz when Markowitz was Brooklyn borough president. Gounardes was a Bay Ridge community leader at the time. “You really get involved and get to know the issues and the people,” he said.
Capano’s break from the GOP and from Golden is striking. He ran for Bay Ridge’s City Council seat in 2009 as a Republican and lost to incumbent Democrat Vincent Gentile.
Sliwa, co-host of the popular “Curtis and Cosby” show with Rita Cosby on WABC-Radio, said term limits also entered into his thinking when he decided to back Gounardes over Golden.
“Marty is a poster child for term limits,” Sliwa told this newspaper.
Sliwa is well known in New York for being the founder of the Guardian Angels citizen patrol group.
Sliwa said he has always enjoyed a friendly relationship with Golden but added that the lawmaker has changed in the years since he first met him. “You used to approach Marty on the street, go have a cup of coffee with him. He was approachable. Now, he’s aloof and unapproachable. He’s out of touch,” Sliwa said.
Gounardes “is a much better fit for the district,” Sliwa said. “Bay Ridge is not a radical place. We didn’t feel that supporting Gounardes it would be like voting for a Socialist.”
Michael Tobman, Golden’s campaign spokesperson, said Sliwa’s comments were puzzling.
“Sen. Golden has always, and will always, be accessible and approachable. He and his office are proven community resources. Saying otherwise, for obvious political reasons so close to Election Day, should be taken with more than a grain of salt. The rest of Mr. Sliwa’s criticisms, and the role of the Reform Party, can wait for a productive talk over coffee after Election Day,” Tobman told this newspaper.
The Reform Party’s viability as a party is facing a real test on Election Day. In order for the Reform Party to maintain a position on the ballot in future elections, Molinaro has to win at least 50,000 votes on the party’s line on Nov. 6.