Andrew Gounardes turned one of the last red seats in New York city blue two years ago. He could face a tough race trying to hang on to it.

NYS Senate

Andrew Gounardes, a first-term Democrat, represents parts of southern Brooklyn.

Two years ago, Andrew Gounardes was at the very crest of the blue wave that swept through districts up and down New York State and put progressive Democrats in firm control of the upper house of the state legislature. With a narrow win over incumbent Marty Golden, Gounardes turned one of the last red Senate districts in New York City blue. As recently as 2004, there were six GOP senators in the five boroughs. Now there is but one. 

Democratic officials are evidently worried that could change: The Democratic State Senate Campaign Committee wired $350,000 to Gounardes last week to bolster his campaign against Vito Bruno, a club owner, music promoter and designer. 

Bruno has made an uptick in crime and a critique of the 2019 bail reform law the center of his campaign, which faces a 19:1 cash disadvantage and a roughly 2:1 registration disadvantage in the 22nd district (Bay Ridge, Dyke Heights, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach and Marine Park). But Gounardes’ narrow victory in 2018 and the district’s Republican history could reduce the odds.

WBAI invited both Bruno and Gounardes to this week’s Max & Murphy Show; only Gounardes agreed to come on. When he appeared on Wednesday, his district was one of several areas in Brooklyn and Queens where clergy, residents and business owners were complaining about the restrictions Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio had imposed to try to contain a sudden, localized spike in COVID-19.

“Obviously we are very, very concerned about the health—and the public health—impact of this spread and we want to try to contain it as much as possible,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who are upset, concerned, anxious, afraid, angry about how these announcements have been made.” First, the mayor made an announcement over the weekend. Then, “we got slow bits of information coming out of the governor’s office over the past two days that have filled in some of those gaps,” the senator added. “So people have been living in nonstop anxiety since Sunday.”

Some of the criticism of Cuomo’s moves has been about the process—namely, his alleged lack of consultation with religious leaders about the impact of restrictions on houses of worship. 

However, the backlash also concerns the policy itself. Some feel certain communities are being narrowly singled out for strict measures. Others believe Cuomo and de Blasio’s approach has been too broad, squeezing neighborhoods where people have followed mask rules and where the number of cases remains relatively low. 

“I think any steps that we have to take have to be really targeted to the critical areas,” Gounardes said. Back in March, the approach was a mass shutdown, and that made sense to people because it was obvious that COVID was not going to respect district lines or neighborhood borders. “Now we have this hybrid model approach that’s applying this partial shutdown” in areas that surround more intense pockets of the disease, where tighter measures are in place, Gounardes said. “I do worry about the possibility of inter-neighborhood transmission. I think there are still questions that remain about the efficacy of this approach.”

Hear our conversation below, including discussion of his re-election race and the spike in crime in the area—or listen to the full show, which includes an interview with voting rights attorney Perry Grossman about potential problems on November 3.

Sen. Andrew Gounardes on COVID-19 and Campaign 2020

Max & Murphy Full Show of October 7, 2020