With a 4000 vote margin or close to 4 percent of the votes, Democratic State Senator Andrew Gounardes eked out a slow-moving victory over his Republican rival, night club owner Vito Bruno, in an election that came down to absentee and mail-in ballots count that he said, “makes it mathematically impossible for him to catch up.”
So the young legislator clad in his own mask and going into his second term in the age of COVID-19, came out to thank voters for their support in the election Friday morning, realizing that he had much to do to keep his job.
He and several staffers gave out PPE disposable masks and hand sanitizers to constituents at the 77th Street train station on Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge early Friday to catch people on their way to work.
“The ultimate margin should be about 4000 votes, and by Brooklyn standards, that’s a landslide,” Gounardes said as he handed surgical masks to commuters. “The volume of the absentee ballots were so great it just took time to count them all. We always knew it was going to be close, and nobody thought it would be a 75-25 race for sure. We always knew it would be a tough race – there were headwinds because Donald Trump is really popular in southern Brooklyn – maybe not in this neighborhood but certainly in other neighborhoods and so you have to work really hard to overcome the natural inclination of people to go straight party line.”
Gounardes said the election proved that people are willing to cross party lines and “split their ballots and willing to recognize people who work on the ground.”
“We’ve done tremendous amounts of constituent services over the last two years that was recognized by the voters,” he said. “We were expecting on election night that we would be behind, but we knew there were 10’s of thousands of people who voted absentee ballot as was their right, and we invested a lot of energy in speaking to those people – we made sure that there were a lot of people who cast their votes before Election Day. We were always ahead, it just took time to show people that.”
He also recognized that the Republican party’s “playbook” was to “politicize public safety and criminal justice,” and he called it “shameful.”
“Nobody takes public safety more seriously than I do or anyone in elected office – it’s one of our top priorities to make sure we keep our neighborhoods safe,” said Gounardes. “But to show images of people lighting garbage cans on fire and say I’m responsible for lighting the match is blatantly false and that’s not the kind of politics people in this neighborhood want to see. They were saying iI was leading the protests, that I was setting the match, that I was in charge of inciting it – that was garbage and people saw through that.”
The same thing was not true for Democrat Rep. Max Rose who lost his race to Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis who was painted as favoring the protestors, defunding police and encouraging crime. This despite Rose having no connection to the state’s controversial criminal justice reforms or defunding of the NYPD.
Gounardes said Rose had a more conservative voter demographic that “was a tough race to win in the first place.” But he said, “even Congressman Rose’s race will be pretty close by a couple of points – but he will come up a little bit short.”
Many Democrats took a hit for criminal justice reform and defunding the NYPD in the midst of rising shootings and homicides city-wide. Police officials in the past have criticized the cashless bail system because some people were continuing to commit additional crimes after they were released without bail.
Gounardes said the laws are flexible.
“Changes were made to the bail laws this year in the budget that went into effect on July 1, and we are seeing the impact of those changes right now in terms of how the pre-trial detention system is working – it’s only four or five months ago. The NYPD’s own data shows bail changes have been working,” he said. “Let’s see how that continues to roll out and the impact of those changes continue to be. If we need to make additional changes to the criminal justice system we will certainly do so.”
He concluded, “I don’t think we need to rush because the New York Post headline says that bail is the enemy of everything and that we should rush to change things. Let’s see if it is working first and if we need to make changes, we will make more changes as we had made changes this year – we are always willing to go back and make more changes as long as we are keeping people safe without sacrificing justice.”