A Chat with Bruno Grandsard, the Underdog Candidate for District 10

Democrat Bruno Grandsard is running a (perhaps) quixotic campaign against Dan Goldman, the high-profile, allegedly unobjectionable multimillionaire heir to the Levi-Strauss fortune, who currently represents New York’s Congressional District 10, and whom Grandsart hopes to challenge in the primary, on June 25. 

While Grandsard’s platform leverages his expertise in climate and economics, his primary focus is primarily is on implementing the sort of political reform that would make it more difficult for him to win reelection if he pulls of an upset. Goldman, whose $253 million dollar fortune, Grandsard says, is a powerful hedge against challengers, is not focused on political reform.

This was so contrarian that we had to talk to him. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 Why doesn’t Dan Goldman deserve another term? So that’s a very very legitimate question. I start with how Dan Goldman was elected. Dan Goldman was elected by approximately 18,000 voters in a district that has about 800,000 people and about 500,000 registered voters — I believe 400,000 registered Democrats — so he was elected by less than 5% of the electorate. How is such a system reflective of what democracy should look like? When you keep on drilling down, he was elected by 26% of the Democrat electorate. As you know, participation rates in primaries is very low, and after throwing a ton of money the election — I think seven million dollars total, relative to approximately $500,000 for Yuh-Line Niou, who came in second — so we have someone who comes in, throws around $7 million and gets elected with a tiny margin in a position that is often, if not a lifetime position, it’s a multi-decade position, because incumbents are rarely challenged. So just taking it from that standpoint alone — this is legal, I’m not saying it’s illegal – someone with an inordinate amount of money should be crowned as the representative of District 10 for multiple decades? That’s really where the discussion starts in my opinion. Secondly, just look at the level of dysfunction in Congress. Why do we have such dysfunction? What can we do in the state of New York and nationally to try to address this dysfunction, which is structural? If a candidate can get elected by basically a very very small sliver of the electorate, after flooding the election with money, you can see the problems and challenges that that represents. I came to the conclusion that the way to address this dysfunction — and this is shared by a substantial number of analysts and politicians — is we need to change our primary system to one which is much more open, such as the reform that was passed in Alaska. For us as Democrats to really preserve democracy, we really need to have this wide group, with progressives all the way to moderate Republicans. The best way to do that is really to invite them into the process early, through open primaries. That’s really what drove my decision to consider running. I realized nobody was going to challenge Dan Goldman. Part of the reason that nobody was going to challenge him is that no professional politician could afford the risk of challenging someone who has unlimited financial resources and losing. So I was not surprised on January 1st, when I filed, there was no other challenger. He already has two million dollars in his campaign, which preempted anyone else from considering running. 

That’s a complaint about how he got elected. But how about the job he’s done? Dan Goldman is focused on MAGA Republicans. That’s all he talks about. He’s constantly making big statements, and countering crazy statements from MAGA Republicans, and that’s fine. But is that really what’s going to bring back some sort of functioning Congress? There’s absolutely no mention of trying to address this dysfunction through the types of reforms that I’m talking about. The argument I made about how he was elected, and it’s faulty, it also applies to the job that he’s doing. Because he’s not doing anything that could result in the temperature coming down and also the dysfunction being addressed. Number two, from everything I’ve seen and heard, all his focus again goes to MAGA republicanism. I agree that that is an existential threat to this country, but very little effort is made at the local level to resolve some of the issues that we have here in New York, and that’s something I’ve heard across several hundred miles of walking and interacting with hundreds and hundreds of voters. Many people I’ve met and spoken to complain that the office is not responsive, that he and his staff are not involved in local issues, and that he seems to be more focused on national media exposure.

What are you hearing from his constituents? There are three blocs. People who are very impressed by his role in being the lead attorney on the first impeachment, and the fact that he’s still very outspoken on CNBC. Sort of the voice of anti-MAGAs in Congress. Or who really like his very very strong support of Israel. I don’t know what the numbers are, but it’s a substantial set of the electorate. Certainly not the majority. Then there’s a group of people who really dislike him because of how he was perceived as buying his seat in Congress. Another group are people really upset at his very strong support of Israel. So those are the two groups that either really like him or dislike him. I believe they are a minority in both cases. I haven’t seen any polls. This is really just based on all the discussions I’ve had. I think the people who dislike him are probably greater than people who like him. That’s at least my impression from the interactions I’ve had. Then there’s more than half who don’t know who he is or who really don’t have a strong opinion either way. Remember, few people vote in primaries, and a lot of people are focused on other issues in their lives.

How are you going to thread that needle on Israel? That’s the worst thing to have to address in a district like this, which is liberal but also filled with Jewish people who don’t want to see Israel destroyed. I’m very much of a Thomas Friedman kind of guy on Israel and the Palestinian conflict, which is that it is possible to have multiple thoughts that are contradictory at the same time in your mind, and my position is I’m very supportive of Israel’s right to exist. Seventy-five years after the existence of Israel, that I have to say that I’m supportive of Israel’s right to exist, it’s sort of crazy. I’m very supportive of the state of Israel, I think the civic society in Israel is incredible. It’s a very interesting country and it was created by refugees, more than half were thrown out of or had to leave North Africa or the Middle East. People who compare it to a colonial project, I don’t know where they get their historical facts. I’m horrified and disgusted by the attacks of October 7, the genocidal tendencies of Hamas, which is absolutely not a national liberation movement, it’s an Islamic extremist movement, so that’s where my starting point is. The Netanyahu government is a disaster, the worst Jewish leader in Jewish history. He has extremists on board who keep on saying and doing scandalous things, the settlement process continues in the West Bank. How is that helpful to any type of long-term peace solution? Obviously, it is not and so where I come down is very very critical of the Netanyahu government and our aid to Israel while this type of government and behavior continues. 

You would cut you would cut off the to Israel? I would not cut off aid to Israel. Aid achieves many different purposes. Iron Dome is obviously something that the US and the western world benefit from tremendously. But there needs to be a component that is tied to stopping building settlements, especially new settlements on land that doesn’t belong to Israel. I’m very much opposed to anything that gets in the way of some type of two-state solution at some point. I’m not naïve, this is going to take many many decades, but we have to keep on trying, and the types of statements that some of the coalition government members make and the actions of this government are just not helpful.

You’re going out and campaigning, and he’s not really going out and campaigning. The only people who will vote are the ones who are really motivated, some of whom either met you personally or had some bad experience with Dan Goldman. Maybe people who like Dan Goldman think, “He’s going to win anyway.” What if under those circumstances, you have a surprise upset. Is that any more legitimate than the election that he won? If I get on the ballot, there’ll only be two candidates as opposed to ten. Whoever wins will win with the majority of the primary voting electorate. He was elected by 26% of the electorate. But also, the number one issue in my platform is to change the primary system. I would be using this opportunity not to perpetuate my situation in my seat in Congress, but really to try to change this dysfunctional electoral system. 

Do you think you’re going to win? Let’s be realistic, the odds of an incumbent being beaten are low. Always. Every single year. The odds are always against the challenger. I recognize that, especially when the incumbent happens to be the wealthiest member of Congress, at least on the Democratic side. Absolutely there’s a path to winning, but I know that the odds are long.

Tell me about your qualifications to be my next Congressperson. I studied Foreign Relations and economics undergraduate, graduate. Postgraduate in international economics. I have worked and studied across the globe, living and working in France, UK, Japan, the US. My expertise is really in a couple of areas. One is economics and helping companies develop. So, right now, I help startups expand globally, specifically in the climate change space, so my expertise is looking at the issues in climate and what do we need to do to accelerate the transition to a decarbonized economy. My second priority in my platform is to accelerate the efforts that were started by the administration in the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a fantastic act, but there’s so much more we need to do. I have the expertise to really push that. The solutions are going to come from regulation and encouraging companies to allocate capital in the sectors that we want them to invest in. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years from a New York local standpoint. I’ve been living here for 25 years and living maybe a less sheltered life than my peer, in terms of my kids going to the local public schools, by being involved in those public schools, my commuting with more normal or more usual means of transportation within New York. Being part of the local community. Each person brings with them a set of very deep expertise and less deep expertise. In the areas of foreign policy, economic policy and climate change, I’m as strong as anyone that I can think of.

Bruno Grandsard

What does your family about your running? My wife thinks I’m a little crazy, because it is a big undertaking, but she’s supportive, and my kids are excited. We’ve all been involved in politics, supporting Biden and various candidates in 2022, volunteering and going to the purple states. All these elections are mostly won in purple states. And so the four of us have gone out and volunteered in those purple states for weeks and weeks at a time.

You haven’t qualified for the primary yet. How long do you have to qualify? I need to submit 1250 valid signatures from registered Democrats in district 10 by April 4th, and I have roughly 2000 today. My target is double, because there are always some that are going to be invalid for whatever reason. And so with the margin of 100%, I would expect that to be sufficient.

Dan Goldman got described in the press when he was running the first time as “conservative Democrat Dan Goldman.” Do you think that’s correct? I think that’s correct, but he has sort of pivoted on certain issues, and joined the Progressive Caucus, either from conviction or out of political necessity. 

What do you think it says about him that, as reported in the media, he doesn’t pay his rent? That is really bizarre, really really bizarre. Unfortunately, our legal system in this country allows bullies to thrive, wealthy bullies, especially. Donald Trump is a great example. I haven’t looked at it in great detail, I can’t state that with a lot of conviction, and I just don’t know, but I find it very very strange when someone with very deep pockets does that. I mean, there’s certain arrogance in that, the same as there is in coming from out of nowhere and spending twelve times what your main primary opponent is spending and winning the election. I don’t know him well enough to make sweeping statements, I’m not a politician, so I don’t know how to do that very well yet. I hope I never do, because I don’t want to become someone who just takes a couple of data points and makes sweeping generalizations, but there’s a pattern there. It may be true, or it may not be. 

^^^

Images from the Grandsard campaign. Content by Oblivioni. Read more Oblivioni news and politics.

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