From Bay Ridge to Marine Park, that name has been synonymous with former Councilman and current state Sen. Martin J. Golden since the late 1990s. But thanks to changing demographics, the just-announced agreement by Gov. Cuomo uniting the fractured Democratic Party, the strength and aggressiveness of his opponents, and Marty’s own missteps, this could be the year that the Marty Golden Era ends.
From 1998 through 2002, Marty, a retired NYPD officer who has received well-deserved praise for his unflinching support of our first responders, represented the 43rd Council District at City Hall. During my time working for former Borough Presidents Howard Golden and Marty Markowitz, I worked closely with the councilman on many issues, especially those relating to community boards. This relationship continued with state Sen. Golden during my time working with former Congressmen Vito Fossella and Bob Turner. So I have first-hand knowledge of his political skill and commitment to his community. How can anyone forget the efforts of Marty and his council office in the days after 9-11, coordinating the delivery of truckloads of food and clothing to those at Ground Zero, and establishing a Community Emergency Response Team?
After he defeated Vincent Gentile and won his senate seat in 2002, with the help of a re-jiggered district to favor the Republican, Marty, who has both the Republican and Conservative lines locked up, has faced only token opposition, if any, in almost every election cycle. This was due to his enormous popularity across party lines in the district and his senior position in the majority party in the state Senate, which resulted in significant funding and resources for Brooklyn. This included many districts represented by Democrats; not surprisingly, the Brooklyn Democratic Party decided to take a pass on giving Marty serious challenges.
But it feels very different this year.
Democratic opponents are more aggressive than ever, having been boosted by the truckload of negative press Marty has been hit with. And it doesn’t hurt that many political wonks agree that the district, made up predominantly of Democrats to begin with, has tilted further to the left since 2012.
Throwing his hat in the ring for a second time, Andrew Gounardes, who received 42 percent of the vote when he ran against Golden in 2012, is the strongest Democratic challenger. Gounardes has raised more than $114,000 according to the last financial filing, is the Brooklyn Borough President’s counsel, has a respected civic record, and is a son of Bay Ridge’s large Greek-American community. Journalist Ross Barkan is also scheduled to run, setting up a primary that could, at the very least, get both of their names out there.
Now that the Democratic schism has been healed, if two special state Senate elections on April 24 go to the Democrats, the chamber will have 31 Democrats, 31 Republicans, and one Simcha Felder, who caucuses with the GOP. But if state Dems also sense Gounardes has a chance to win, expect a huge influx of money and manpower into his campaign.
And right now, Marty is weakened by a fractured Brooklyn GOP, thanks to his very public split with former Republican leader Craig Eaton, a former Community Board 10 chairman and well-respected civic activist. A united Brooklyn Republican Party would be an asset to Marty this year.
On top of that are the 67-year-old Golden’s recent missteps. He referred to then-Council candidate Justin Brannan as “fat boy” during an endorsement event for his deputy chief of staff in that race. In December, he was accused of impersonating a police officer in order to get a bicyclist to move out of a bike lane his car was driving through. In 2012, after intense criticism, Marty’s office had to cancel an etiquette class he scheduled for women to help them to “walk up and down stairs elegantly” and “sitting, standing, and walking like a model.” Finally, Marty recently axed a long-time aide for sharing Facebook posts comparing a survivor of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting and gun control advocates to Hitler and Nazis.
Put it all together and you may have a perfect storm that could lead to the end of the “Golden Era.”
Bob Capano has been an adjunct political science professor at the City University of New York.