Marko Kepi, trim, neat haircut, eyes that make steady contact, sat at a window table overlooking 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge at the Bridgeview Diner and contemplated what the American dream means to him.
“I believe I’m living it right now because in this country I came here for the freedom that was denied to myself, my family and my parents,” said Kepi. “So this is the American dream to me. When you can actually have a dream and be able to achieve it.”
And the dream for this first-generation American, who came to this country from Albania at 10-years-old, is to succeed Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge, Staten Island) in representing the 64th Assembly district next year with Malliotakis stepping down to take on U.S. Rep. Max Rose (D-Southern Brooklyn, Staten Island) this year for the Congressional seat.
Kepi, a Republican, comes to the race with solid credentials, having worked for former State Sen. Marty Golden as a special assistant for more than four years. In this capacity, he was a special assistant handling constituent and social media work as well as being a community liaison.
“Working for Marty was really inspirational because I was in situations with him and saw hard he worked,” recalled Kepi. “I’ve been in places when he was getting things his way and I’ve been in places where he wasn’t getting things done his way and I saw how hard he worked in either case. It made me work harder for him and for the district because I saw how much he cared about people,” Kepi said.
Kepi said the choice to become a Republican was relatively easy as the Party’s core values of self-sufficiency and hard work resonated with him as it does with a good many new immigrants that often go into business for themselves or who just see the opportunity that the country affords them.
“I’m running because the people don’t have the right representation especially on the Brooklyn side,” said Kepi. “I think we need a Republican leader that’s not afraid to cross the bridge and come to Brooklyn to help constituents and get more people elected as Republicans. We also need somebody to be more vocal because I see elected officials a lot of time choose to stay neutral or quiet because of whatever heat they get and I’m not that type of politician. If I see something that is disturbing or whatnot, I’ll take it on whether its good for my political career or bad. So I’m going to speak up.”
Among the issues that Kepi sees need addressing in Bay Ridge include a recent spike in crime stemming from recent bail reform laws, traffic issues and increasing property taxes.
As far as reaching across the aisle in the Democratic-controlled assembly, Kepi said achieving another one of his American dreams – becoming a U.S. Marine and still being part of the Marine reserves, will come in handy.
“I like building relationships and friendships. There are a lot of veterans in the assembly. Some friends of mine got elected as well and you have both Democrats and Republicans side by side to affect good policy, It doesn’t matter who’s doing the bill or who’s not doing the bill, as long as it works it should cross party lines. Once you remove the Party label we’re only talking person to person,” Kepi said.
Kepi has also proven to be a good fundraiser and currently has raised over $125,000 with a healthy $94,397 on hand, according to state campaign finance records.
Kepi does have a GOP primary challenger in Michael Tannousis.
The primary is slated for June 23. Should Kepi prevail he will likely face Democrat Brandon Patterson on Nov. 3.