Reform Party leader Bob Capano a factor in Bay Ridge Democratic primary
The Democratic primary for Bay Ridge’s state Senate seat pits Andrew Gounardes against Ross Barkan but it’s the leader of another political party who is quickly becoming a factor in the closely-watched contest.
Bob Capano, who ran for City Council last year as a Republican, now serves as chairperson of the Brooklyn Reform Party. His party’s endorsement of Gounardes is the talk of Southwest Brooklyn political circles.
Barkan, a political journalist making his first run for public office, charged that Capano has made anti-immigrant statements in the past. Barkan is calling on Gounardes, a lawyer, to refuse the endorsement.
“Running as a Republican for City Council last year, Bob Capano repeatedly attacked the Arab-American and Muslim communities of this district. He called for state investigations into a beloved Arab-American community leader, Rev. Khader El-Yateem, and a wonderful nonprofit, the Arab-American Association of New York. But my Democratic primary opponent has also proudly accepted the support of the Reform Party of Brooklyn, which is chaired by Bob Capano. This is not acceptable and my opponent should decline the party line,” Barkan told this newspaper.
“Taking the endorsement of the Reform Party in Brooklyn legitimizes and normalizes Bob Capano,” Barkan added.
Gounardes dismissed his opponent’s argument.
“Let me state unequivocally what anyone who knows me already knows: I have not and will never support, believe, or condone the personal views of Bob Capano on immigration and immigrants in our community, and I have a long record to prove it,” Gounardes wrote in a Facebook post.
Gounardes added that he accepted the Reform Party’s endorsement solely because of the party’s stand on combating political corruption in Albany.
“The sole focus of the Reform Party platform is ending special interests’ control of state politics, reforming our antiquated voting laws, professionalizing the Board of Elections into a non-partisan agency, and demanding more transparency from government bureaucracy and public authorities. Nothing in the platform touches on immigration,” he wrote.
Besides, said Gounardes, it’s not necessary to agree with every stand a political leader takes in order to accept an endorsement.
“Just as I don’t agree with all the personal views of the leaders of the Democratic National Committee, the Governor, the Kings County Democratic Chairman, or even the Working Families Party leadership, I don’t agree with the personal views of the Reform Party’s leadership,” he wrote.
Barkan pointed out that Capano recently sided with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials after they seized an undocumented immigrant delivering pizza to the Fort Hamilton Army Base.
The detention of Venezuelan Pablo Villavicencio led to protests outside the Army base by immigration advocates. A federal judge ordered him released from custody on July 24.
“Political correctness can’t be allowed to determine which laws are worthy of prosecution and enforcement. The law is the law, and must be followed by all,” Capano wrote in an op-ed in the Brooklyn Courier.
Gounardes serves as chief counsel to Borough President Eric Adams, who led demonstrations protesting Villavicencio’s detention.
Meanwhile, Capano struck back at Barkan’s accusation that he is anti-immigrant.
“For anyone to say I am anti-immigrant is just slanderous. Immigrants in our community have made us stronger. Andrew Gounardes and I do not agree on everything. The Reform Party is not about any one person’s purported positions, but rather our focus on cleaning up Albany,” Capano told this newspaper.
Barkan and Gounardes are running in the Sept. 13 Democratic Primary for the right to be the party’s candidate in the Nov. 6 election against Republican state Sen. Marty Golden in the 22nd Senate District.
The district takes in all or parts of several Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Gerritsen Beach and Marine Park.
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