New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
During this time of political cynicism, Andrew Gounardes’ re-election victory over Republican Vito Bruno in the race for State Senator of District 22 on November 18, the third day of the Board of Elections ballot counting declares a triumph of ideas over money.
After a surge of mail-in and absentee ballots that leaned Democrat, which Gounardes had predicted would determine the election outcome, Gounardes, who had been trailing 6,000 votes behind Republican Vito Bruno Tweeted early on November 18 that the campaign’s Election Day deficit of -5210 votes had gained a lead of >1100 votes and with ~3500 ballots left to count, he believed the lead would continue to grow. And at 4:30, “As the vote count comes to a close, it’s clear that our community has given me the incredible honor of being re-elected to serve as State Senator. To every member of Team Gounardes, every voter, and every person who believes in the vision we share: Thank you. The work continues.” Gounardes presents as an agent of change in Albany.
Andrew Gounardes is a Greek American with strong roots to the Community and Greek Orthodox Church. On May he marched side by side with Archbishop Elpidophoros of America for a Black Lives Matter event with Brooklyn Borough President.
Money for power from organizations seeking to influence policy in Albany ran into many millions of dollars in the Senate elections. Gounardes won despite billionaire Ronald Lauder’s 4.7 million dollar payment to the independent expenditure committee, the conservative PAC “Safe Together New York”, to defeat the Democrats
which made it possible to bombarairwad TV and radio with negative ads accusing Gounardes and three other Democrats of being soft on crime and releasing dangerous criminals without bail, among other unfounded claims.
Democrat Kevin Thomas also won re-election for the 6th District against Republican challenger Dennis Dunne, Sr. although he was another among the Democratic incumbents targeted negatively by the independent expenditure committee funded by billionaire Ron Lauder, who poured millions of dollars into several races. A committee run by the New York City PBA, seeking to punish Democrats for criminal justice law changes approved in the most recent term, also spent $578,740 on TV and radio ads in the district to oppose his re-election.
However, StudentsFirstNY, an education reform group that had in the past supported Republicans in the state Senate but now funds the political action committee “New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany”, one of the largest outside supporters for Senate Democrats, spent $6.3 million on their candidates this election cycle, with $3.6 million of that going to the Thomas race alone to support his re-election.
Thomas declared victory on Monday, after absentee ballots put him ahead of his Republican Dunne, saying, “I am deeply honored to be reelected by the residents of the 6th Senate District,” Thomas said in a statement on Monday. “Following a very close election in 2018, I am thrilled to have won a larger margin this year, and I know that is because of my hard work fighting for this community, Long Island, and all of New York State. I look forward to continuing my efforts to build a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Long Island and New York State, and I thank the voters for their support.”
PBA threatened Deputy Majority leader Mike Gianaris, when the State Senator from Queens posted on his Twitter account after Thomas’ victory:
“Hey @NYCPBA, behold the re-election of @KevinThomasNY and the 100% Democratic Nassau Senate delegation!” Gianaris tweeted. “You should really do a better job minding your members’ money.”
The police union clapped back at Gianaris:
“Keep looking over your shoulder, Mike,” the PBA tweeted. “You had to bring in your billionaire buddies and your Pres/VP candidates to barely squeak by. How much did you spend per vote? And how much will you have to spend after voters suffer through 2 more years in #NoBailNY?”
Gianaris told the Daily News that the PBA crossed a line when it told him to “keep looking over your shoulder,” a move he described as “threatening.”
“The police union has lost its bearings,” he said over the phone. “It’s acting more like an armed advocacy group than protectors of the peace.”
On Friday, Michelle Hinchey, a Democrat, handed her party the latest victory in the State Senate, flipping a district from Republican hands. She’ll replace retiring Sen. George Amedore, who decided not to run for reelection this year.
This leaves Democrats one seat shy of the Super majority that will allow them to even override a veto by Governor Cuomo, also a Democrat. They are now having 41 seats.
State Sen. Pete Harckham, a Democrat, is still waiting for absentee ballots to be counted in his race against Republican challenger Rob Astorino, a former Westchester County Executive. That counting could end in the next few days, with absentees favoring Harckham so far.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said in an interview on public television’s New York NOW that the top priority for lawmakers when they return to Albany will be the state’s finances. New York currently faces a $14 billion budget deficit.
“So much is colored now by the pandemic and coronavirus and our response to it,” Gianaris said. “So I do expect that 2021 will be largely consumed by budget questions.”