David Gurfein wants to be ‘statesman’ in House

David Gurfein wants to be ‘statesman’ in House

As a first-time candidate for public office, David Gurfein said he thinks of himself as a particular kind of political outsider: a “statesman.”

The Republican candidate for the 4th Congressional District and retired U.S. Marine said he thinks lawmakers have a responsibility to challenge incorrect assumptions, not accept them like many members of Congress.

“Politicians will represent their district to get re-elected,” Gurfein said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “A statesman will come back and they not only have a right to dissent, but they have an obligation to come back and explain why people may be thinking something that’s not necessarily correct.”

That’s one of several lessons taken from Gurfein’s time as a combat veteran, experience he said equips him best to support the national defense, which he called the federal government’s “primary concern.”

A Great Neck native and Manhasset reside nt, Gurfein launched a campaign in the 3rd Congressional District last September and switched to the 4th District in March after state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) won the GOP nomination to replace retiring Rep. Steve Israel.

Gurfein faces incumbent Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Garden City Democrat and former Nassau County district attorney, in the district covering most of southwestern Nassau, including New Hyde Park, Floral Park, Mineola, Garden City Park and parts of Williston Park and East Williston.

Gurfein served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the first Gulf War before attending Harvard Business School and working for private companies. He re-entered active duty after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was one of the first Marines to enter Iraq in 2003.

He was later a congressional liaison for NATO’s supreme commander in Europe and the U.S. Special Operations Command, leading representatives on tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gurfein said that experience would help Congress craft a “clear strategy” for the nation’s defense and how to deal with its chief threat — the Islamic State group and other Muslim terrorist sects.

A lack of strategy in Iraq created the vacuum of power that led to the birth of the Islamic State group, and a lack of one now has put the U.S. in a mode of “constant defense,” Gurfein said.

“Right now we’re not working towards a final end state, so we have this ongoing threat as opposed to addressing it properly and ending it,” he said.

That strategy should come before any decision whether to put U.S. ground troops in Syria, Gurfein said, a move to which he would not commit.

While he said he does not think Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration is necessary, Gurfein said there should be increased screening for anyone traveling from Muslim-majority countries.

And while Trump’s proposed wall may not be necessary, there should be “some sort of physical deterrent” along the southern border with Mexico to stanch the flow of immigrants, Gurfein said.

Gurfein said he is not endorsing Trump, but prefers the real estate magnate to the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, because Trump has been “willing to learn and grow” while Clinton “believes [she] has all the answers” and makes choices “based on political expediency,” Gurfein said.

“I’m concerned about many things he’s said. However, I’m more concerned about the things Hillary Clinton has done,” Gurfein said. “He can say ridiculous things, and has. She’s done horrible things, of which I’ve been a party to,” he said, citing her vote to authorize the Iraq War.

The nuclear accord with Iran that President Barack Obama brokered last year was not a sound foreign policy move, Gurfein said. He said the U.S. “gave it all away” in the negotiations and characterized the $150 billion released to Iran when economic sanctions were lifted as foreign aid.

Gurfein also thinks lawmakers should have clear strategies for addressing domestic issues such as health care and spending cuts, he said.

Gurfein opposes any federal tax increase and wants to aggressively cut spending to pay down the national debt, he said.

He said he favors cutting the capital gains tax but did not specify by how much. Major cuts should be considered for certain offices, such as the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service, he said.

Military spending could be cut, he said, but not without a “clear strategy” for military operations.

Congress should also have plans for a new health care system if it repeals the Affordable Care Act, Gurfein said. He would support allowing insurers to compete across state lines but would look at some parts of the law to keep, he said.

Gurfein opposes expanding background checks for gun purchases, banning semiautomatic weapons and banning people on the federal terrorist watch list from buying guns without being given a hearing.

“I don’t want a bureaucrat taking away my rights, or anybody’s rights,” he said. “… We want defense and we take away our own freedoms and securities.”

Gurfein faces an uphill climb against Rice, an incumbent who is well known and popular in the district. Four local Republican lawmakers endorsed her last month.

Gurfein had $187,357.54 in his campaign war chest as of June 30 to Rice’s $887,571.37. The National Republican Congressional Committee has not booked any TV ads on his behalf, a committee spokesman said.

Gurfein and Rice face off in the Nov. 8 general election.

By Noah Manskar

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