It was in 2012 – during a presidential debate between former President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney – when Andrew Gauzza III, now a sophomore government major at Manhattan College, first discovered his love for the art of politics.
Five years later, in 2017, Gauzza has launched a campaign of his own, for an open seat on the City Council in his hometown, Beacon, N.Y. Gauzza, a Republican, is running against Democrat Jodi M. McCredo to replace retiring Democrat Pam Wetherbee.
“I stepped up for the Republican line, and they accepted me,” Gauzza said.
Gauzza’s campaign got its start last winter, after he made a phone call to Justin Riccobono, chair of the city’s Republican Committee.
“So this year I called him [Riccobono] up,” Gauzza said. “I called him up, and kind of in jest I said, ‘I want to run for city council.’ And now I’m running for city council.”
Gauzza and Riccobono first crossed paths in 2015, during Beacon’s last set of municipal elections. That year, Gauzza became involved in the mayoral campaign of Randy J. Casale, another Republican.
“Two years ago, for the last city council race, which was also a mayoral election, I had gotten in touch with the chair of the Republican Party, Justin Riccobono, and he got me involved,” Gauzza said. “He got me doing phone calls and stuff like that for the mayor.”
Casale ended up winning that race handily, carrying 67 percent of the vote, even though Democrats won all six seats on the City Council.
Once Gauzza decided to pursue the Republican nomination, he had to be approved by a committee. Then, Gauzza had to collect signatures from residents of Ward 3. After he had accomplished this, he officially became the Republican Party’s candidate in the race.
Gauzza then elected to pursue nomination for other parties. In addition to the Republican line, Gauzza is running on the Independence Party line, the Conservative Party line and the Beacon First line, which was of his own creation.
Gauzza has made ground game the centerpiece of his campaign strategy.
“I hit the ground running pretty hard on that,” Gauzza said. “I’ve knocked on 500 of the 700 people that voted two years ago doors. Around 580-something doors in total.”
A Lee Hall resident, Gauzza typically travels back to Beacon on weekends to campaign.
“The chair of the Republican Party calls me an animal when it comes to knocking on doors,” Gauzza said. “I spend entire weekends knocking on doors.”
His campaign also utilizes social media, and has its own Facebook and Instagram accounts.
To many Beaconites, Gauzza, 19, stands out because of his age.
“[I think that my age] helps me. I’ve only had a few people where it hasn’t helped me, actually,” Gauzza said. “And, believe it or not, I’ve lived in the City of Beacon longer than my opponent has. I grew up in the City of Beacon. I’ve lived there since the time I was four years old.”
Gauzza emphasizes his roots in his campaign slogan: “For the Love of Beacon.”
Should he prevail, Gauzza intends to pursue an aggressive agenda centered on zoning reform.
Beacon, a small city of 15,541 according to the 2010 Census, is located in Dutchess County, N.Y., roughly fifty miles north of Manhattan College along the Hudson River.
Gauzza believes that residential development in Beacon has moved at too fast a clip, and wants to pursue policies that will slow residential development, in favor of commercial development.
“We’ve had a period of four to five years now where we’ve had, just, uncontrolled development in the City of Beacon, just residential development. Anywhere they can find a new place to build, they build,” Gauzza said. “They built a plan in 2007 that’s so outdated that it’s got 2007 facts still in it.”
The second prong of his plan is to bring jobs to Beacon by increasing the amount of space available for commercial development.
“In the City of Beacon, only 10 percent of the people who live in the City of Beacon work in the City of Beacon,” Gauzza said.
For Gauzza, increasing the amount of commerce in Beacon means shifting the tax burden off of residents and increasing the amount of volunteerism in Beacon’s fire department and emergency medical services.
“It will create a more sustainable tax structure which will, I think, naturally lower residential taxes, because it would favor more of commercial and office spaces, which are much better for taxation purposes anyway,” Gauzza said.
Gauzza also sees infrastructure as a priority. If elected, Gauzza said he would pursue a long-term spending plan to reconstruct the city’s sewage system.
“There are areas of the sewage and water systems that haven’t been updated since the ‘50s or ‘60s,” Gauzza said. “What I would propose is a spending plan over time, so that you don’t dramatically increase taxes.”
“What I want to do is look for a tax effective solution […] right now we’re not doing anything,” Gauzza said.
Gauzza has tried to keep national politics from entering into his campaign. He views the two as two separate arenas, and for this race, he is looking to remain focused on the local issues in Beacon.
Regardless, separating himself from President Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans in Washington has proven to be difficult for him.
“The first person I went to to get a signature in the primary when I said I was a Republican and I saw that he was a Republican,” Gauzza said. “The first question I got asked is, ‘As long as you didn’t vote for Trump.”
“It’s not that I don’t agree with them. I voted for Trump. But I […] don’t think that the two should be combined. Local levels politics are local level politics. State and federal level politics are their own thing. I like to keep it strictly local politics,” Gauzza said.
Gauzza is optimistic about his chances, but – win or lose – he is grateful to have had the opportunity to run his own campaign, and urges other young people to get involved in their neighborhoods as well.
“Local politics are important. Don’t shrug local politics off,” Gauzza said.
Polls are open in Beacon – and in all of New York State – on Tuesday from 6 a.m and until 9 p.m.