In the seven days since Election Day, unofficial state Senator-elect Andrew Gounardes has already hit the ground running, with the expectation of heading to Albany come January.
Gounardes, a Democrat who ended election night with an 1,100-plus vote lead over long-standing Republican incumbent state Sen. Marty Golden, has claimed victory despite the Board of Elections (BOE) not officially calling the race for either candidate.
If the vote remains in his favor come the end of the week (when the BOE plans to hold a machine audit after finalizing absentee ballots), Gounardes – a lawyer, local activist and Eagle Scout – will have successfully unseated a politician who hadn’t lost an election in 21 years.
As such, the potential senator-elect has only picked up steam, according to sources.
Gounardes has reportedly spent the week since Election Day celebrating with friends and family, and meeting with various stakeholders across the district, while also keeping an eye on the final vote count.
He has, of course, taken a bit of time off to relax with his girlfriend, Melanie Graf (with whom he celebrated an anniversary on election night), and his family, though, he certainly hasn’t put his feet up, yet.
Less than 15 hours after his camp called the race in his favor, Gounardes – who ran on a pro-Vision Zero platform – joined Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives in Manhattan to declare “running on safe streets” a “winning strategy” in New York City politics.
Gounardes himself was a founder of two transportation-related organizations in southern Brooklyn — Concerned R Train Riders, which advocates for handicap-accessible subway stations in Southwest Brooklyn, and 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.
His opponent, on the other hand, found himself at the center of the storm during this summer’s fight to save speed cameras in school zones, his eventual call to keep them in place too little, too late, according to opponents of their cancellation – whom Gounardes fought staunchly alongside.
Safe streets, however, make up just one plank of the Bay Ridge native’s platform for the 22nd State Senate District – as he made clear on Thursday, Nov. 9 at a jam-packed Bay Ridge Democrats meeting, which he attended, alongside Assemblymember-elect Mathylde Frontus.
The two also celebrated with supporters at an official victory party for Frontus, held Sunday, Nov. 11 at Patsy’s Pizzeria on Third Avenue.
Throughout it all, his campaign team has remained optimistic, as well as patient with the process.
“Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and our campaign is committed to seeing the process through to the end,” his camp told this paper in a statement. “We are confident that the Board of Elections will certify our victory and look forward to coordinating with Senator Golden to facilitate a smooth transition. In the interim, we are moving forward and working with Senate Democratic leadership to ensure that Team Gounardes can hit the ground running on day one.”
Local Councilmember Justin Brannan – a longtime friend of Gounardes and arguable kingmaker in terms of a Brooklyn “Blue Wave” – is also certain, in terms of eventual victory as well as in the candidate’s ability to govern.
“Andrew has the passion of an old school peacemaker, compelled to intercede in conflict of any kind. His desire to right wrongs and his commitment to making sure that everyone has a seat at the table is absolutely real,” he told this paper of Gounardes, whom he called the Felix Unger to his Oscar Madison. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, how much money you make, the color of your skin, the language you speak, who you pray to or who you love, Andrew will be your champion.
“His willingness to listen, and his visible empathy, have a way of not only bringing people together but converting people to his side. Above all, you can count on Andrew to fight for you and always put people before party and politics,” Brannan said, adding that, having grown up in Bay Ridge, the pair plans to carry on the traditions of the neighborhood some residents have worried might end with Golden.
“Andrew and I both grew up in Bay Ridge so the traditions of this neighborhood are very near and dear to our hearts and we understand the importance of continuity when it comes to the many neighborhood events people have come to know and love,” he stressed.
Golden, a retired New York City police officer and former owner of the Bay Ridge Manor, entered politics in 1997, winning a City Council seat representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst. In 2002, he ran for state Senate and won.
He has yet to concede, campaign spokesperson Michael Tobman telling this newspaper on Nov. 13. that, “There’s a process in place to count every vote, and both sides in this campaign are working through that process.”
“Certainly if roles were reversed, Mr. Gounardes would be saying the same,” Tobman added.
Sources say Gounardes has also begun to think about staffing and where he’ll put his district offices. Golden currently has one in Bay Ridge, and another in Marine Park.
The district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.