Bay Ridge Democratic state Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes is considering dropping out of the race to run for indicted Assemblywoman Pamela Harris’ seat instead. Gounardes is currently running in state Senate District 22, a seat currently held by Republican state Sen. Martin Golden that stretches across Southern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Marine Park.
Beating Golden would be a major feat for Gounardes, a lawyer for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and anonprofit founder who has never held elected office before. Golden has held the seat since 2002, and had more than $500,000 in his campaign account as of the latest filing period in January. Gounardes had just over $100,000 and lost to Golden 58-42 the last time he challenged him in 2012.
But Democrats are hoping for a “blue wave” this year as voters unhappy with President Donald Trump come to the polls. Observers also say Golden, one of few New York City Republicans in the state Legislature, seems more vulnerable than ever in the heavily Democratic district, especially after a series of negative headlines in December following a run-in in which the SUV he was riding in nearly hit a bicyclist.
Still, a run for Harris’ Assembly seat could be a much easier way for Gounardes to get to Albany. Harris was indicted on fraud charges in January, and Brooklyn Democratic Party County Leader Frank Seddio said he doesn’t expect her to run again, even if she avoids a conviction. While that District 46 seat, which stretches from Bay Ridge to Coney Island, has traditionally been held by a Coney Islander, Bay Ridge native Gounardes would likely become an immediate front-runner if he ran, thanks to his fundraising and political connections.
“I wish he would make up his mind,” Seddio said of Gounardes. “He’d certainly be a worthy candidate.”
Seddio said there are around five other candidates who are considering running for Harris’ seat, including Coney Island-based professor Mathylde Frontus, and that the county party is in no rush to back a candidate for the seat.
Some Democrats may encourage Gounardes to stay in the state Senate race as the Democrats try and pick up red seats statewide to shift the balance of the GOP-led state Senate. With his money on hand and connections thanks to years as a political aide, Gounardes is seen by many as a stronger candidate than his Democratic primary challenger, former political reporter Ross Barkan. Barkan has less than a tenth of the money of Golden, but has been running an aggressive campaign, and a political operative who asked to remain anonymous said that Golden would still have a tough race against Barkan. And as Seddio remarked at a January meeting, either Democrat’s chances against Golden could be improved by avoiding a primary.
Gounardes could not be reached for comment. But for the time being, he appears to be staying in the Senate race. He won the endorsement of progressive group Run for Something on Tuesday, and sent out a fundraising email highlighting his opposition to the NRA on Thursday.