Candidates spar over limits of term limits at forum

Candidates spar over limits of term limits at forum
Photo by Julianne Cuba

Brooklyn’s lone Republican state senator wants term limits on state pols — but not for him.

State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), who is running for his ninth term to represent parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Sheepshead Bay up in Albany, told a roomful of voters during a candidates forum on Oct. 3 that he’d support term limits for a Democratic legislator with more than three decades under his belt, but that he’s still got years of public service ahead of him.

“I’d be in favor, we did term limits in the city Council, I’d be in favor of term limits in the state legislature — for offices paid in the state of New York,” Golden said during the forum hosted by the Bay Ridge Inter-agency Council on Aging at the Fort Hamilton Senior Center. “One of the supporters is Peter Abbate, he’s got 36 years, it’s time to move on for him, not me, I’m only here 16.”

A rep for Golden didn’t respond to exactly how many years in office would suffice before the sitting pol was ready to step down, but said his boss does support putting a cap on the number of terms an elected official can serve, especially for leadership roles in Albany.

“Sen. Golden has always supported term limits, and still does,” said Michael Tobman. “Within the framework of what the law currently is, however, he will not unilaterally limit his public service.”

Golden’s challenger for a second time, however, Bay Ridgite Andrew Gounardes said he’d only back term limits for executive positions such mayor and governor, and that giving constituents the opportunity to kick politicians out of office through elections is good enough.

“We have term limits already and they are called elections, and they happen every two years,” said Gounardes, who was endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo after besting his competitor Ross Barkan in last month’s Democratic primary. “We need to make it easier for people to participate in the voting process so they can hold their elected officials more accountable on a two-year basis.”

The three-hour forum — during which candidates for the Bay Ridge Congressional race, and Bay Ridge and Coney Island Assembly races were also invited to speak — nearly came to blows when Golden told constituent Mallory McMahon, who is a founding member of liberal political group Fight Back Bay Ridge, that he doesn’t have time to meet with her because she is a “Democratic operative.”

“I’m sorry, I’m too busy for you,” Golden said to jeers from the crowd, after McMahon questioned why his office has given her the run-around as she has tried since February set up a meeting. “She agrees with me on nothing and I have a very busy office.”

But Gounardes said he would welcome meetings with all constituents, even if they don’t see eye to eye.

“That’s just a no-brainer, even if someone doesn’t agrees with me, we’re not all gonna agree on every single thing,” said Gounardes to rounds of applause — and he later clarified that McMahon has never volunteered nor worked for his campaign after such accusations following the heated exchange with Golden. “But that’s okay, that’s the way the system is supposed to work, but what’s not supposed to happen, we’re not supposed to ignore those who disagree with us, we’re not supposed to ignore those who make us feel uncomfortable.”

During their closing arguments, Gounardes urged voters to cast their ballots for him on the Nov. 6 if they are unhappy with the status quo, while Golden told the room that flipping the senate from red to blue would ruin lives.

“If we get the Democrats to take hold of the Senate it would be the worst thing to happen to us, and would be the worst thing to happen to our community,” said Golden, who blasted Cuomo as corrupt on the heels of the governor backing Gounardes. “This is what you want in Albany? This is what you want?”

Meanwhile, incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge) — facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Max Rose, who was recently endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden — failed to make an appearance because he was at an “important foreign affairs commitment in Washington,” according to his campaign rep Jessica Proud, although social media shows he was on Staten Island for another event.

And the Democratic nominee for the vacant Coney Island Assembly seat, Mathylde Frontus — who beat out establishment-backed candidate Ethan Lustig-Elgrably in the primary by just 51 votes — also had the floor to herself because her Republican opponent, Steve Saperstein, had just welcomed a baby girl the day before the forum.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.