It was a fight over facts — and alternative facts.
The race between state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes heated up on Oct. 23 as the pair sparred over different characterizations of their views in front of a raucous crowd during a 45-minute debate at Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge, sponsored by the Bay Ridge Community Council.
One of the candidate’s most tense exchanges came when moderator Alex Conti asked an audience member’s question about how the candidates would support the district’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. When Golden said he already supports those communities, Gounardes reminded the pol — and the crowd — that Golden was the borough’s only state Senator to vote against same-sex marriage in 2011, as well as a subsequent controversial comment he made about his constituents’ alleged views of the matter.
“Marty, you were the one who led the opposition to marriage equality in the state Senate in 2011,” Gounardes said. “You were the one who said, ‘my constituents don’t give a rat’s ass about marriage equality’ — and you were so dead wrong. There is so much that we could be doing in the state of New York for protecting everyone in our state — regardless of who they are, where they came from, when they came here, or who they love — and Marty Golden is not doing that.”
But Golden dismissed those facts as untrue — prompting Gounardes to accuse the pol of picking his own facts to fit his agenda.
“That is obviously not true,” Golden told the crowd. “You can listen to him, but he’s not telling you the truth.”
“Marty, you have a superficial relationship with the truth and it’s been proven time and time again,” Gounardes replied.
When Conti asked another audience question about what the candidates would do to combat climate change, Golden called the problem a “federal issue” — prompting Gounardes to remind the crowd of comments Golden made in an interview with City Limits last month, in which he said “the jury is out” on whether or not climate change is even real — even though at least 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is real and caused by humans.
“Let’s just start with the basics: first, climate change is real,” Gounardes replied. “I know Marty was a little confused by that a couple weeks ago on television.”
An especially rowdy moment came when Conti asked an audience question about whether or not the candidates would “stand up to hate and denounce the Proud Boys,” an alt-right group linked to the white-supremacist movement that Golden’s staffer Ian Reilly recently invited to speak at a Manhattan Republican club meeting, after which members of the alt-right group fought with anti-fascist protesters on the streets outside, leading to the arrest of at least five Proud Boys members.
Gounardes blasted the members of the group — along with Golden for employing the person who invited them to the city.
But Golden took issue with the idea that Reilly is a “white supremacist” — an allegation Gounardes did not explicitly make — just because he invited the group to speak.
“Are you calling [Reilly] a white supremacist?” the pol asked Gounardes three times.
Gounardes replied that Golden should “condemn” Reilly for associating himself with the group.
“The people that were brought here are white supremacists, and they should be condemned, and anyone affiliated with them should be condemned as well,” Gounardes said. “Why is that so hard for you?”
Golden said that he condemns white supremacy, but that Reilly would stay on staff.
“I denounce white supremacy,” Golden said. “Ian is not a white supremacist, and he’s going to stay.”
The pair will face off in the Nov. 6 general election, when voters will decide whether Golden will stay.