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Suozzi Declares for New York Gubernatorial Race

November 29, 2021by Reece Nations and Dan McCue
Suozzi Declares for New York Gubernatorial Race
Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y. outside the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Dan McCue)

NEW YORK — Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., announced on Monday in a virtual new conference that he will run for governor of New York.

Suozzi is the latest candidate to join the race in which he will contend with incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul, who took office following former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation in August, Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Suozzi has served as Representative of New York’s 3rd Congressional District since 2017.

James declared for the race in October after spearheading the investigation of sexual harassment claims against Cuomo which culminated in his resignation. Hochul announced her candidacy for governor almost immediately after inheriting the remainder of Cuomo’s term, and Williams announced his candidacy earlier this month after forming an exploratory committee for the nomination.

Tom Suozzi began his life in public service as a scion of a political dynasty, the Suozzi’s of Glen Cove, a city of just under 30,000 residents in Nassau County, New York, on the North Shore of Long Island. 

His father, Joseph A. Suozzi, was the city’s mayor from 1954 through 1958, and his uncle Jimmy ran the city twice, from 1973 through 1979, and again from 1984 through 1987.

Suozzi himself was Glen Cove’s mayor from 1994 through 2001, his tenure marked by a concerted effort to revitalize the community’s waterfront and downtown.

Yet for all this, Suozzi was the outsider when he decided to run for Nassau County executive against N.Y. State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli in 2001.

Everyone among the New York Democratic leaders lined up behind DiNapoli, who’d been a popular state assemblyman before successfully running for three terms as comptroller.

But while DiNapoli was snapping up endorsements, Suozzi was raising money ferociously. 

Though both campaigns would effectively grind to a halt in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Suozzi had already been running television ads for weeks by that time and had far outspent DeNapoli when it came to lawn signs and mailings.

In the end, Suozzi won the primary by an 8% margin, garnering 36,796 votes to DiNapoli’s 31,719.

With his victory in the primary, Suozzi immediately vaulted from being a relatively unknown mayor of a small city in the shadow of Manhattan skyscrapers to a very big deal indeed in New York Democratic politics.

Almost overnight, he was on the speed dial of everyone from Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer to state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

His Republican opponent, Bruce Bent, a multimillionaire financier, ran on being an experienced money manager and tried to seize Suozzi’s mantle as outsider by pointing to the Democrats family legacy in Glen Cove.

But when the dust settled on election night, Suozzi had crushed his Republican opponent, defeating Bent by an almost 20-to-1 ratio, 64% to 33%.

In his victory speech in a ballroom in Plainview, N.Y., Suozzi told his cheering supporters, ”Tonight we made history, but tomorrow we go back to work.” 

He asked them to ”work with me as we dismantle the machine culture of politics in Nassau County.”

And they did. Even after Suozzi raised the county portion of the property tax by 19% and shrank the county workforce by 1,200 jobs to less than 9,000 — the lowest number of county workers in three decades.

Country residents swallowed the massive tax hike after he made good on a promise he would freeze taxes after that, and as he drastically reduced borrowing and debt, eliminated deficits and accumulated surpluses.

Eventually the state imposed a financial review board, granting the county a $105 million bailout and $382 million in debt financing help that finally righted the municipality’s finances. 

At the same time, Suozzi garnered praise for initiatives like his “no wrong door” social services program, which sought to help county residents in need by centralizing county agencies.

”If I ever want to run for higher office someday, I’ve got to be successful at what I’m doing now,” Suozzi said during this period.

In 2005 he was named a “public official of the year” by Governing magazine.

Such was his rising star, that later that year, Tony Bennett performed at a swank fundraiser for him, burnishing the county executives reputations as a prolific fundraiser.

Financial records at the time showed Suozzi already had $1.6 million on hand when the legendary singer ambled to the microphone. Tickets that night were $250 for the concert, $1,000 with dinner included and $15,000 for a ringside table for 10.

But by then it was clear, Suozzi had higher office in mind and he soon announced he was challenging Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for his party’s nomination for governor, running again as the underdog. 

But Suozzi had bigger things in mind and soon announced he was challenging Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for his party’s nomination for governor, running again as the underdog. 

Once again, his bid was seen as an affront to the New York Democratic Party, which was supporting Spitzer in the hope of electing the first Democrat as governor since former Gov. Mario Cuomo was defeated in 1994.

“This will be a tough fight,” Suozzi noted as he threw his hat into the ring. “My opponent will have the vote of almost every single Democratic Party boss.”

“He’ll have the support of almost every single Albany legislator, Albany lobbyist and Albany lawyer,” he said of Spitzer. 

“So far, I’ve been endorsed by my mother and my father — and I’m working on my wife Helene,” she said.

For a time, it appeared as if Suozzi would grab the nomination. He even earned a standing ovation after a speech before the New York State Conference of Mayors.

But it was Spitzer who won the primary and Suozzi, after much speculation, dropped out of the race entirely when he announced he would not seek an independent line on the November ballot.

He would go on to two more defeats, in each case seeking reelection to the post of Nassau County executive, and each time losing to Republican Ed Mangano.

He finally regained his winning ways when he was elected to the House in 2016 and reelected in 2018.

“I like to call myself a common-sense Democrat,” Suozzi said in his campaign announcement video. “Politicians are too focused on being politically correct. I’m focused on doing the correct thing for the people of New York. The far-right and the far-left have gone too far and they’re stopping us from getting things done.” 

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