By Sabina Mollot
In November, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney will be facing off against a Republican challenger named Robert Ardini, a former marketing executive and a resident of Long Island City.
Ardini, who spoke with Town & Village about his campaign last week, said he decided to run last fall mainly because he doesn’t feel enough is being done to reduce national debt, paving the way for an economic crisis, but also, he added, “I don’t believe our founding fathers intended for anyone to run for 23 consecutive years.”
However, since Ardini knows that in order to even have a shot at beating the popular incumbent (who recently clobbered her primary opponent with nearly 90 percent of the vote), he’s already begun the process of trying to appeal to Democrats.
The 55-year-old is positioning himself as a candidate who’s fiscally conservative but socially moderate. His top priority is reducing the national debt, followed by ending the gridlock in Washington, but, he noted, he’s also for a woman’s right to choose and supports gay marriage (so long as that union is called something else).
Recently, he had postcards made up with the tagline “A moderate Republican even a Democrat can like,” requesting that Republicans in the district mail it to a Democrat friend.
Having worked in marketing for many years, Ardini said based on his own calculations, he believes he could have better results than all the others who’ve attempted to beat Maloney at the polls if he can get enough publicity to get his name and message out there. If he succeeds at that, he reasoned, he might then get the support of campaign donors who at least at this point haven’t been interested in backing an unknown.
He also said he’s gotten some inspiration from Pope Francis, who, he learned, has the same health condition he does. Francis and Ardini both have only one lung. In Ardini’s case, he lost the organ as a child to cancer. Having spent his life always being asked by others if he could really handle certain jobs or goals due to a possible lack of stamina, he’d always felt held back by fear. That is, until learning of the Pontiff’s condition.
“Now I can say if he can do the job I certainly can,” said Ardini.
He’s even recently secured the support of Manhattan GOP (formerly the New York Republican County Committee), although initially there was concern about his lack of name recognition. Because of this Ardini briefly mulled running as a “blue dog” Democrat, which is a fancy term for fiscally conservative Democrat. He was also tempted to run as a Libertarian, but that would have been a paperwork nightmare. One reason is that as a Republican, he needed 1,250 signatures to get on the ballot versus 3,500 that are required for a Libertarian. He ended up sticking with Republican status though and is a member of the Upper East Side-based Metropolitan Republican Club.
Since deciding to run for Congress, Ardini has found himself being questioned for his decision to run for federal office with some others in the party instead encouraging him to run for a comparatively more attainable state position. But Ardini, a self-described “politics junkie,” defended the choice, saying he interest was “in national issues, not local.”
Since committing to running a campaign last year, Ardini’s been touring his tri-borough district, petitioning and speaking to voters about the issues. Whether in Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn, top concerns from what he’s seen are crime, the economy and jobs.
“Most of the issues have to do with money,” Ardini said. This wasn’t a surprise to him, considering his run was birthed through similar frustrations.
“I’d be watching CNN and Fox and I’d find myself becoming angry that (elected officials) aren’t focusing on the humungous invisible problem,” he said. “I was being an armchair critic, so I stepped up.” And, how, exactly does he propose to reduce the national deficit?
“By balancing the budget and not overspending.”
Ardini is a lifelong New Yorker, formerly a resident of the Central Park area, raised in Whitestone, Queens, and he also lived for a while in Great Neck. He now lives on the waterfront on Long Island City after selling his home off Central Park.
When it comes to the issue of housing, Ardini had this to say:
“I always try to keep the government out of things and allow the free market to prevail, but there are exceptions to that. (New York) is one of those exceptions. It warrants the government stepping in to do something, to try and provide some affordable housing. There are social programs in place and Mayor Bloomberg did a wonderful thing in my area. He dedicated a lot of land to middle income housing. It seems to be playing out quite nicely, so just more of that.”
On district related matters, Ardini said, “One is the Second Avenue Subway. It’s taking far too long and it’s far too disruptive.” He’s also against the Upper East Side marine waste transfer station. “The area is far too residential and far too congested to have garbage trucks going through,” said Ardini. He added, “I tend to feel there’s an element of risk having it so close to the water when we have major storms like Sandy. It’s simply too much of a risk.”
On his “moderate” views on social issues: As for gay marriage, he believes same-sex couples should be able to marry, but not with that term “out of respect for people who feel marriage has always been for a man and a woman.” On abortion, he said he is personally against it, but “I wouldn’t impose my view” on others. His own feelings on the matter stem from his having learned that when his mother was pregnant with him, he was unplanned and unwanted. His parents couldn’t afford a baby and on top of that they’d recently lost a two-year-old daughter due to a hole in her heart. “They later came to view me as a blessing,” he said.
On homeland security, Ardini said he wants more funding for New York. “New York is the number one target and we have to never forget that.”
On Israel: “We need to remember the fact that Israel is our best friend in the Middle East, and we must continue to maintain alliances with them to exchange information on matters pertaining to national security.”
On gun control, a subject of utmost importance to Maloney, Ardini said, “I don’t want to take anyone’s guns away, but I do believe we need to look into some controls — I don’t like to use the word restrictions — on assault weapons. I’d like change to come from within. Let’s stop fighting the NRA so perhaps we can establish some common ground. The years of fighting the NRA haven’t worked, so why keep doing it?”
On government gridlock: “To me gridlock is so unnecessary. We have to do what Ronald Reagan told us to do, to bond and establish relationships with one another in Congress. It’s easier to compromise if you’ve built a foundation of respect and we need to do the same thing with the NRA.”
On the presidential candidates, Ardini’s a supporter of Donald Trump “with some reservations, but I could say that about any presidential candidate in any year. Donald Trump’s imperfections are more visible because he tends to wear them on his sleeve. The primary reason I support him is because he has an appreciation for my number one campaign issue, which is national debt. If it gets much higher we’ll be in terrible shape. We can’t continue to borrow money from the Chinese and print money. He recognizes that if it gets much higher we’ll have an economic meltdown. Hillary Clinton, last time I checked, doesn’t list national debt as an issue on her website. Maybe now that the primary is over, she’ll add it to her website.”
On his opponent, Ardini said, “Congresswoman Maloney has done some great things in the past 23 years.” In particular, he said he appreciates her fight to get healthcare compensation for 9/11 responders “and in proposing laws as needed.” But, he added, “I honestly feel it’s time for a change.”
After leaving marketing, which Ardini did at the now defunct music magazine Ovation, he ran his own business for nine years, publishing a newsletter for classical music lovers. He’s also a musician on his own time, playing the violin, cello and piano, and did part of his undergraduate work for New York University at Juilliard. Another hobby is growing roses. Ardini’s grown over 100 varieties and the Long Island Chapter of the Rose Society has designated him a consulting rosarian emeritus.