Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his Democratic predecessor, Tom Suozzi, who’s running for his old job, clashed in their first debate of their rematch four weeks before Election Day.
The current and former county executives accused each other of lying before the boisterous crowd that frequently heckled both candidates as they discussed topics ranging from affordable housing, policing and Nassau’s troubled finances.
“Tom, I would just ask…that you stick to the facts and don’t make them up,” Mangano said in his closing remarks after Suozzi alleged Mangano forced 19-percent property tax hikes through the assessment system—a claim Mangano interrupted Suozzi when he first mentioned it, calling it “an outright lie.”
“We all know that this administration is in serious financial trouble and leading us down a road of ruin,” Suozzi said during his closing in which he asked Mangano if he supports a Shinnecock Indian Nation casino at Nassau Coliseum, which Mangano proposed years ago but hasn’t materialized.
Hundreds of Mangano and Suozzi supporters—taking turns cheering their candidate and booing their opponent—filled the auditorium Tuesday evening at The Wheatley School in Old Westbury for the debate moderated by the Nassau County Village Officials Association.
Despite the politically charged atmosphere, there was one point on which both sides agreed: the need to lobby against New York State enacting more unfunded mandates—state laws that force local governments to spend more without providing new revenue.
They also agreed that the county needs more affordable housing in downtowns near public transit to stem the so-called Brain Drain, the term for Long Island’s college graduates increasingly moving away, although they parted ways on how to go about building such housing.
On the topic of the police department, Mangano touted “eliminating duplicative administrative heads” and intelligence-led investigations, although he did not mention his controversial merging of eight precincts into four—a plan that was left incomplete, leaving five precincts.
For his part, Suozzi conceded in his response to the question on county police that his old style was too combative and that, if returned to office, he would try to be more collaborative.
Once the topic turned back to county finances—most notably the Nassau Interim Finance Authority tightening its control when Mangano took over in 2010—the gloves came off.
Mangano reiterated his argument that NIFA held him to stricter standards, which he said should be taken into consideration when comparing their records. Suozzi maintained that his record includes 13 bond upgrades versus three bond downgrades under Mangano.
But, when Suozzi quoted newspaper editorials blasting Mangano—specifically Newsday, whose parent company, Cablevision Systems Corp., hired him after he was unseated in 2009—one heckler shouted: “Did you write it?”