Gounardes strikes bipartisan note on transition team
Senator-elect names Republicans to his committee
After a divisive campaign punctuated by heated debates and a long, drawn-out vote count, Democratic state Senator-elect Andrew Gounardes sought to strike a bipartisan note as he prepares to succeed the man he defeated, Republican Marty Golden, in office on Jan. 1.
In one of his first major acts as a senator-elect, Gounardes made sure to include prominent Republicans on his 54-member transition team.
Craig Eaton, the former Brooklyn Republican Party chairperson, and Charles Capetanakis, a longtime GOP fundraiser, were among the names on Gounardes’ list when he announced his transition team on Nov. 27.
Eaton and Golden were often at odds when Eaton headed the Brooklyn GOP. But Eaton also spent several years trying to get Republicans elected to public office in the borough.
The selections of Eaton and Capetanakis were on purpose, Gounardes said.
“During the campaign, I promised to be a senator for all my constituents, regardless of where they came from, when they came here, what God they pray to, what they believe, who they love, and yes, what political party they belong to. The composition of my transition committee reflects my early commitment to fulfilling that promise,” Gounardes told this newspaper via email.
Other names on the Gounardes transition team include Bay Ridge Councilmember Justin Brannan; former Councilmembers Vincent Gentile and Lew Fidler; Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City; and Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress.
Gounardes tapped Tori Kelly, a top legislative aide to Assemblymember Peter Abbate and the Democratic District Leader of the 49th Assembly District, to serve as chairperson of the transition team.
“Tori is an exceedingly bright political mind whom I trust implicitly. She has also been a close friend for many years and was the first person to join my campaign,” Gounardes said.
The transition team will work closely with Gounardes on such matters as hiring new staff, setting up a legislative office in Albany and opening a constituent service office in Southwest Brooklyn, according to the announcement which was issued through his campaign.
“The purpose of the transition team is to give us guidance and advice through the hiring process, setting up the senate office, and helping set priorities for the legislative session. These are big tasks and the senator-elect has a short period of time to do it,” Kelly told this newspaper.
Robert Capano, a former Republican who is now chairperson of the Brooklyn Reform Party, backed Gounardes over Golden and is a member of the transition team. He is impressed by the committee’s diversity, he said.
“Through his inclusive transition committee, Andrew is already proving he will be a senator for our entire district,” Campano said.
In a nod to the growing Arab-American and Asian-American populations in the Senate district, Gounardes named several leaders from those communities to his team.
Key among his priorities, Gounardes said, is ensuring that there is no interruption in constituent services. “First and foremost, the committee is working on a smooth transition between our office and Senator Golden’s to ensure that there are no loss of services for our constituents,” he said.
In a statement issued by his campaign, Gounardes reached out a hand to his vanquished opponent.
“I again want to thank Senator Golden for his years of dedicated service as both a decorated NYPD officer and elected official,” he stated.
Gounardes defeated Golden on Nov. 6 in the election for the 22nd Senate District. But Golden did not concede until nearly two weeks later, preferring to wait until absentee ballots were counted.
During the campaign, the two men faced off several times in raucous debates where they traded barbs.
The Senate district takes in all or parts of several Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.
Other members of the Gounardes Transition Team include: Assemblymember Peter Abbate, Mohammed Al-Sawaeer, Debbie Almontaser, Joseph Bova, Jay Brown, Vanessa Brown, Aaron Carr, Irene Chu, Mary Anne Cino, Bruno Codispoti, Michael Decillis, Ellen Driesen, Somia El-Rowmeim, Alex Gleason, Kenny Guan, Mark Hanna, Allison Hirsh, Reem Jafar, Ramses Joudeh, Scott Klein, Louie Liu, Ryan Lynch, Councilmember Alan Maisel, Lori Maslow, Eric McClure, Chris McCreight, Josh Mehlman, Sunny Mui, Gina Napolitano, Kristen Pettit, Stephen Pickering, Dean Rasinya, Marvin Reiskin, Stefan Ringel, Shea Rubinstein, Kayla Santosuosso, Courtney Scott, Amir Shani, Dorothy Siegel, Tara Siringo, Eugene Strupinsky, Sam Sutton, Karen Tadross, Nancy Tong, Stephanie Wong and