The races for Southern Brooklyn’s 22nd state Senate district and 11th Congressional district have been two of the fiercest contests in the state — and is a case study in the tribalism that has engulfed our politics today.
As Republicans and Democrats go at each other with pitchforks, it appears more likely then ever that independent voters will have a huge sway in the outcomes of these races.
That is why the Reform Party line could be a significant factor in these races. It gives this huge bloc of voters an oval to fill in if they are fed up with the extreme animus and deep divide between the two major parties.
In these competitive races, the Reform Party is supporting one Democrat, challenger Andrew Gounardes for state Senate, and one Republican, incumbent Congressman Dan Donovan. This is probably why State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long recently said in a published report, “No one knows where the Reform Party stands or what issues are important to them. It’s pretty hard when a party endorses far left and in the next breath they support very conservative candidates.”
The fact that the Reform Party, of which I am chairman, is not a rubber stamp for either major party is what makes it unique. It appeals to those that don’t want to be part of the war. It stands for principles that transcend the divisiveness between the right and left. These include ending New York’s distinction as the most corrupt government in America, giving voters more choice by adopting measures such as initiative and referendum, reducing the role of special interests and big money in politics, and supporting those candidates that the local party leadership believes are best able to represent the unique qualities of their districts.
Today, most of the political atmosphere is dominated by seeing things in black and white, with no gray area or room for compromise; linking one candidate with every position of a bogeyman in their party; focusing on the Proud Boys and Antifa; and viewing all decisions as a zero-sum game. This unfortunate reality has played out in both of these Brooklyn races.
One of the main reasons being espoused for supporting Marty Golden is to ensure that the GOP maintains control of the state Senate since they have a razor-thin one vote majority. Preserving a balance of power in Albany is critical, but this race is not taking place in a vacuum. There are 62 other campaigns that will impact which party is in charge come January. In northern Queens, for instance, Republican Vickie Paladino crushed her primary opponent, giving her fresh momentum. More significantly, the Democrat incumbent, Tony Avella, lost his primary to John Liu. However, Avella remains on the Working Families and Independence lines, and is aggressively campaigning. This will split their votes, and could allow Paladino to flip the seat. Therefore, Golden’s race is not a zero-sum game for control of the state Senate.
Linking one candidate with every position of someone else in their party is petty. It is just as unfair to say Andrew Gounardes supports every position of Gov. Cuomo as it is to say Marty Golden and Dan Donovan support every position of President Trump. Lately, because of some of Cuomo’s decisions, Gounardes detractors have strongly insinuated that he can’t wait to get to Albany to let cop-killers roam our streets, open crack hotels in our neighborhoods, and allow Antifa to loot our stores. Gounardes’s family has been a mainstay in Brooklyn civic life for decades, and passed this spirit on to their son. To suggest that he wants our community to go to hell in a handbasket is wrong.
The winning-at-all-cost mentality of today’s politics can be seen in the history of personal attacks by Golden’s staff toward anyone they view as their enemy of the day. This includes Democrats, fellow Republicans, and Reform Party officials. More disturbing, many of these smears have come from anonymous Twitter accounts. Golden may not be making these attacks directly, but he has allowed these irresponsible and mean activities to take place under his watch. An elected official’s staff’s belief that it can act with impunity is another reason to support term limits. Or, at the very least, to vote that candidate out of office.
The extreme right and left will inevitably flock to their party’s candidate, but it will be independent-minded voters who will decide these key elections, and be the ones that must restore sanity and civility in our political system.
Bob Capano is the chairman of the Brooklyn Reform Party and has been a professor of political science for more than 15 years.