Battle Tested Outsider
By Frank Rizzo
“Let’s run for office. It’s time. If not us, then who?”
With those words from wife Beth, Marine Corps Lt. Colonel (Ret.) David “Bull” Gurfein decided to “throw his helmet” into the ring. The Republican is challenging incumbent Democrat Kathleen Rice in the 4th congressional district.
It all began two years ago when his then 6-year-old daughter Avery saw a news account about the latest ISIS atrocity and called her father, disturbed. She knew about his extensive combat service in that troubled region of the world. He tried to comfort her by saying, “sweetheart, we’re safe.”
“But dad, you didn’t get all the bad guys,” she responded. “You have to go get them—that’s your job.”
“It broke my heart,” Gurfein related at a meeting with the Anton Media Group editorial staff.
The veteran was ready to put on his uniform and serve again, but friends in the military convinced him that the only way to fix the situation was at the national level.
With help from the Nassau GOP, Gurfein took up the challenge, attending as many community events as possible and meeting with a wide variety of groups.
“It’s hard to get traction in a system that discourages outsiders, but I’ve been incredibly inspired and motivated,” Gurfein said. “The grassroots support is tremendous” and cuts across party lines.
His extensive experience in both the military and in the business world (he holds an MBA from Harvard Business School), Gurfein believes, puts him a leg up on the majority of people who serve in Congress.
The top concern he hears from people is terrorism. Gurfein believes the current posture vis-a-vis what he calls “violent Islamist extremists” is unwise and untenable. Likening it to the fight against fascism in WWII, he calls for taking the fight to the terrorists and destroying them.
High taxes are another issue, he said. He proposes lowering the corporate tax rate and trying other means to bring new business back to Long Island, therefore easing the burden on residents’ property taxes.
“I think many politicians have lost the perspective that they are there to serve,” Gurfein said. “That your ‘boss,’ the people you work for, are the citizens.”
Imbued by what he called his family’s tradition of service and noblesse oblige, Gurfein followed in his father’s (Arthur) footsteps and joined the Marines. The graduate of Great Neck South High School quarterbacked the football team to its first (and so far only) undefeated season.
Later, he earned a BS in political science and speech at Syracuse University. In the military, he served tours as an infantry officer in war zones in Panama and Iraq, and, after 9-11, voluntarily returned to active duty and saw combat action in Afghanistan and Iraq. He later worked for Goldman Sachs and other firms with national reach. He even appeared in a bit role in a feature film, A Few Good Men: He prevents Jack Nicholson from attacking Tom Cruise.
In a democracy, Gurfein summed up, “you have to be involved and engaged, you have to know the facts and have to make rational decisions for the nation, not the party.”
Incumbent Bipartisan Pol
As the incumbent United States representative for New York’s 4th congressional district, Kathleen Rice can’t be accused of being a career politician despite having put in a stint as the Nassau County District Attorney for nearly a decade. And while there are those who might think she went to Washington DC, as a way of climbing up the political ladder, Rice’s intentions were far more civic-minded.
“The reason I ran is because I think we need more people that are not partisan politicians in Washington. And I said if I get elected, I’m going to reach across the aisle and get things done. And that’s what I’ve done,” she explained. “I think I’m the only member of my freshman class in the minority on the Democratic side that got two bills passed. And that’s because I put a lot of effort in on my committee work. I’m on [committees] for Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, two issues that are critical to New York and certainly to this district as well.”
The two bills Rice worked on that passed had to do with greater scrutiny of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees and the introduction of a new risk-based, intelligence-driven process for more frequent, randomized security screenings for airport and airline employees and also shrinks the number of employee entry and exit points. The other bill was the Brave Act, which gives the secretary of the Veterans Administration the ability to prioritize awarding contracts to those companies that show they have a higher rate of veteran hires. They are achievements the Garden City resident is proud of, particularly given the divisive climate in the nation’s capitol.
“When you get into that bubble that is Capitol Hill and you’re subjected to the pressures that come from your party in terms of where we’re going to be on a particular bill, sometimes my answer is yes and sometimes my answer is that I’m not going to be where other Democrats are,” she said. “The significance of those two votes to me are why I think we need more people willing to make the right votes versus what’s politically expedient for them.”
It’s that kind of mindset and desire to get things done that’s gotten Rice involved with a bipartisan group of her colleagues that is working on presenting a bill that would require the comptroller of the United States to address a joint session of Congress every year and give a full state of the country’s economy. While there’s been pushback, Rice thinks it’s a crucial bill that needs passage.
“[Opponents said] it was going to roil the markets. You talk to people on Wall Street and their response is that the only people on the planet that don’t know the finances of the country are people in Congress,” she said. “They said that Wall Street already knows what the balance sheet is. So I’m hoping that this bill can find some traction. But it’s things like that, where you have to put yourself out there.”
If Rice is re-elected, getting this piece of legislation voted into law along with closing private gun show and online gun sales background check loopholes are some of her goals for her next term, while maintaining the purity of her electoral obligations.
“I look at my service as not just being an elected official but the kind of elected official I would want as a constituent, because I am a constituent,” she said. “I live right here [in Garden City] and every day I try to uphold that. And for however frustrating it is to get things done in Washington, every day that I walk over to the Capitol to vote I pinch myself and can’t believe that I’m able to serve my country.”