BY MEAGHAN MCGOLDRICK & PAULA KATINAS
“I’m just so proud of him,” cried Diane Gounardes Tuesday night, Nov. 6 just minutes before her son, Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat, would claim victory in his race to win the coveted – and long-Republican – 22nd District state Senate seat.
Gounardes, a lawyer, a local activist and an Eagle Scout, addressed supporters at Cebu, 8801 Third Ave., before midnight, appearing to have ousted long-time state Sen. Marty Golden.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial results, Gounardes brought in 50.9 percent of the vote (31,168), with Golden receiving 49.1 percent (30,039).
According to sources close to the election, there are approximately 1,500 absentee ballots still to be counted, and an unconfirmed amount of provisional votes left over from some of Tuesday’s notably backed-up polling sites.
Election night appeared to bring to an end a remarkable streak of good luck for Golden stretching back two decades. The retired New York City police officer entered politics in 1997 when he ran for Bay Ridge’s City Council seat and won. He ran for state Senate in 2002 and won again. Going into Tuesday, Golden had not lost an election in 21 years.
Faced with the prospect of a stinging defeat, Golden refused to concede to Gounardes and instead expressed confidence that a count of paper ballots would give him the victory.
“We believe we have the opportunity to pull this out. There are 3,000 paper ballots out there,” he told crestfallen supporters at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476 76th St., late Tuesday night.
“We are not done. We have a way to go,” he added.
His camp, Wednesday morning, doubled down.
“Senator Golden is not conceding, as we are assessing the ballot situation – machine and absentee – to ensure that every vote is counted,” Michael Tobman, Golden campaign spokesperson, confirmed.
Meanwhile, Gounardes’ team is still riding the high of what they’re calling a definitive win, their celebration the night before not just for the candidate, but for democracy as a whole.
“There’s a new boss in town,” Councilmember Justin Brannan remarked. “The boss is not me or Max [Rose] or Andrew. The boss is you, the people, the people that made this happen. The power is back in your hands. You spoke loud and clear today, and you elected Andrew Gounardes as your state senator.”
Gounardes, when it was his turn to speak, concurred. “The victory is not my victory. It is our victory. It’s our community’s victory,” he told the crowd. “We are going to have leadership in south Brooklyn that speaks for our community.”
Former Councilmember Vincent Gentile, whom Golden defeated in another hard-fought state Senate race, and who later won Golden’s vacated seat on the City Council, clearly was enjoying the moment. “We will do to Marty Golden what he did to us, 16 years ago,” he told the crowd.
Among the remarks made against the incumbent at Cebu were fierce accusations of gerrymandering to create a district 16 years ago that would ensure his win against Gentile.
“This is a long time coming,” said Bay Ridge resident and Community Board 10 member Brian Kaszuba. “I was in the room when the Democrats lost this seat in 2002 and I saw the heartbreak. This community has been trying ever since to take back what was theirs, and we’re finally here. There are no words.”
Golden, on the other hand, took a moment to reflect on election night, perhaps sensing that his long political career was coming to an end.
“I have had the ability to have a great life,” he said as he mentioned his wife Colleen and their sons, Michael and Patrick.
As the night wore on, supporters and members of Golden’s senate staff frantically checked their cell phones to navigate websites to see if they could get more information on the Golden-Gounardes race.
Many shook their heads in dismay as they looked at the numbers.
“This was a tough night,” New York State Conservative Party Chairperson Mike Long told this newspaper on his way out the door.
Golden repeatedly pointed to his record in the Senate during the campaign, boasting that he’s brought back millions of dollars in funding to the district for senior citizen centers, schools and other projects, and has sponsored outdoor concerts in parks and mobile labs for mammograms.
However, in recent months, he has been at the center of a variety of controversies, including dust-ups over speed cameras in school zones and, most recently, a flap over the fact that one of his campaign staffers had invited the leader of the Proud Boys, an alt right group, to speak at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Republican Club.
Gounardes, who on the campaign trail and in debates with Golden sought to portray himself as a change agent who would bring much-needed new ideas to Albany, was seen Wednesday morning thanking voters at the 77th Street subway station.
His proposals include appointing a rider to represent subway passengers on the Metropolitan Transportation Board, creating a waterfront park in Bay Ridge, establishing a GI Bill for senior citizens who might want to go back to college or train for a new profession and awarding tax credits to people who serve as caregivers to ailing family members.
Boasting a long history of civic involvement, Gounardes is a former member of CB 10 and a co-founder of Bay Ridge Cares, a non-profit group that assisted homeowners hard hit by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and has raised money for various charitable efforts.
Gounardes also founded two transportation-related organizations. He formed the group Concerned R Train Riders to demand handicap-accessible subway stations in Southwest Brooklyn and is a founder of Bay Ridge Advocates for Keeping Everyone Safe (B.R.A.K.E.S.), a group fighting for speed cameras in all New York City school zones.
He campaigned while on leave from his post as chief counsel to Borough President Eric Adams and had received endorsements from a bevy of citywide unions, as well as the United Federation of Teachers, Planned Parenthood, The New York Times and even the Reform Party.
“I supported Marty Golden in each of his past elections but knew his time was up this year,” said Bob Capano, the party’s Brooklyn chairperson in a statement. “It is time to turn the page and move forward in our community with new leadership in Albany and Andrew is the right person.”
On election night, Gounardes assured supporters that, though “there is so much left to do,” the future is bright.
“Tonight is a victory for the voiceless,” added Brannan. “Every single one of you took the future by the ear and you said, ‘The time is now.’”
The district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.
Update: This paper has learned that there will be a paper count on Wednesday, Nov. 14, followed by a machine audit on Friday, Nov. 16.