An already congested Congressional contest just got more crowded as former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi became the latest candidate to join the growing ranks of those interested in succeeding Rep. Steve Israel, who rocked the Long Island political world earlier this month when he declared that he will not run for reelection this November.
The 53-year-old Nassau Democrat, who served two terms as county executive after being Glen Cove mayor from 1994-2001, announced his intention to explore a run for New York’s 3rd Congressional District at a Tuesday morning event held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. A CPA and lawyer at the law firm of Harris Beach, Suozzi formally filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to form a fundraising committee, an initial step in the process.
“Over the next month or two, I’m going to talk to people in the district, raise some money, really think it through with Helene and the kids and try to make the right decision,” Suozzi said.
Come September he’ll have two kids in college and a son still in high school, so currently weighing on his and his wife Helene’s minds is that the commute to Washington, D.C., is longer than the one to Albany, which he considered making in 2006 before he lost a Democratic gubernatorial primary to then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
In 2009 Suozzi lost his race for a third term as county executive to then-Republican Legis. Ed Mangano, who beat the incumbent by 386 votes. Four years later, Suozzi ended up much further behind County Executive Mangano in a rematch, losing by 59-to-41 percent of the vote.
“I know that people are sick of politicians and they’re sick of politics,” Suozzi tells the Press. “Going back into the arena is not an easy thing to do but I’m frustrated by what I see going on in politics these days and it’s got to be shaken up.”
He took issue with the current campaign rhetoric coming from both the right and the left in the national discourse.
“The Republicans are saying, ‘Let the marketplace take care of it. Let the rich continue to succeed and that will take care of everything,’ ” Suozzi complained. “And I don’t think it’s accurate what a lot of Democrats are saying, which is, ‘Let’s raise taxes on the rich.’ It’s not as simple as that….I want to work together with other people to actually solve real problems that face the people who live in the Third Congressional District.”
At this early stage Suozzi is arguably the front-runner from his side of the aisle since he’s the only Democratic elected official to win county-wide office twice. The district stretches from northern Queens to Suffolk’s Huntington Town but its largest bulk includes Nassau’s Gold Coast.
At this point, a dozen Democrats have expressed varying degrees of interest, and they’re all scheduled to meet Wednesday with Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs and other party leaders in Glen Cove. Among the contenders are Nassau Interim Finance Authority Chairman Jon Kaiman, former North Hempstead Supervisor; Suffolk Legis. Steve Sterns (D-Dix Hills), who’s term-limited; North Hempstead Town board member Anna Kaplan; Brad Gerstman, a lobbyist; Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove); Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member, who co-runs a public relations firm; Suffolk Legis. Dr. William Spencer (D-Huntington); Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone; former Suffolk Legis. Jon Cooper; Todd Richman, a Great Neck businessman and philanthropist; and Laurie Scheinman, a psychologist and philanthropist from Port Washington.
Interest is also heating up on the Republican side. At this early stage the contenders are State Sen. Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), the former mayor of Mineola; Suffolk Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga); Assemb. Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station); and David Gurfein, a former Marine and currently president of a health & wellness business.
“Jack’s all in, no question about it,” says E. O’Brien Murray, a campaign strategist for State Sen. Jack Martins, in a phone interview with the Press. “He’s definitely running.”
Although Murray says he’s sure that Nassau Republicans will eventually come around to regard the former mayor of Mineola as their best candidate for the congressional seat, he was quick to criticize the former Nassau County Executive.
“This is the same Tom Suozzi who brought us corruption in his first term, created the energy tax in his second term, and raised taxes 20 percent,” says Martins’ Republican spokesman. “The voters threw him out once and overwhelmingly rejected him the second time when he tried to come back.”
Rep. Steve Israel, a former Huntington Town council member, was first elected to Congress in 2000 when the district included more of Suffolk than it does now after it was redrawn. For two terms Israel served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He resigned that post following the brutal drubbing of Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections, which included the defeat of Rep. Tim Bishop, who had represented the East End of Long Island in the 1st Congressional District but lost to then-State Sen. Lee Zeldin. Until Israel made his announcement two weeks ago, the race for Zeldin’s Congressional seat was the only one on Long Island drawing attention—and money—considering that Republicans hold a 30-seat majority in the House of Representatives and this district was considered a toss-up. Vying to run against Zeldin are Democrats Anna Throne-Holst, the former Southold Supervisor, and David Calone, the former Suffolk County planner and investor.
Now Long Island has two hot Congressional races with national implications in 2016 when the White House is also up for grabs.