If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
In 2006, while serving as Nassau County executive, Tom Suozzi ran against Eliot Spitzer in a Democratic primary for governor of New York that proved disastrous for Suozzi. He lost the primary carrying only 18 percent of the vote to Spitzer’s 82 percent.
In 2009, Suozzi lost his reelection race for Nassau County executive to Ed Mangano, a Republican. The following year, Suozzi returned to the private sector as a senior advisor to the investment banking firm Lazard and as counsel at the Harris Beach law firm.
Fast forward six years and Suozzi’s political fortunes turned around. In 2016 Suozzi began a three-term (six-year) career as a member of Congress in a sprawling district that runs from Kings Park, Suffolk County, through the northern portion of Nassau County ending up at the Whitestone Bridge in Queens.
Suozzi, 59, threw his hat in the proverbial political ring Monday in his second run for governor. Suozzi joins three other Democrats, Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, in his bid to be New York’s next chief executive. There is an expectation that other Democrats will be entering the race in the coming weeks.
With this announcement, Suozzi’s congressional seat will be up for grabs at a time when Democrats are trying to hold the majority in the House nationally. Depending upon redistricting, the seat could be a pick-up for the Republicans.
Suozzi said he “will do all he can to make sure another common sense Democrat holds the seat. It’s a 50-50 type seat, a swing seat. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the redistricting lines but running for governor it’s going to be important to do well in places I represented historically. One of the things I’ve learned is you have to listen to the people.”
During a 50-minute virtual news conference, Suozzi dubbed himself a “common sense democrat” who is “about getting things done.”
Reporters asked Suozzi about lowering property taxes, education reform, bail reform, his environmental record, good cause eviction, Covid, unfunded mandates, lowering the crime rate, expanding the state tax base, and ethics reform.
“I have no problem raising taxes,” said Suozzi, “but not only in New York.” Suozzi said any tax hike, including a carbon tax, would have to come from the federal level.
“I supported, in the House Ways and Means Committee (the chief tax-writing committee), increasing the top tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent in the corporate tax,” Suozzi said. “That’s for everyone in the country. We have to try to figure out how to make New York more of an attractive state when compared to other places in the country so I wouldn’t support a tax just in New York to make New York less attractive.”
Suozzi laid out an agenda that includes three components to his campaign.
“People looking at the governor’s race will make their decision based upon three factors that I think differentiates me from the other candidates,” Suozzi predicted. “Competence, ideology and vision for the Future.”
When it comes to competence, “I have a proven record of executive experience. I was the mayor of Glen Cove, county executive of Nassau County, a member of Congress, I’m trained as a CPA and a lawyer. I’ve got the background and the proven ability to do this job. Everything I have done in my life has prepared me for this particular job at this particular time,” Suozzi asserted.
As for ethics reform and rooting out corruption, “I was the first elected official in New York State who really took on the corruption in Albany with the “Fix Albany” campaign (2004). That led to a Medicaid cap that has saved people billions of dollars throughout the state since that time.”
When it comes to ideology Suozzi doesn’t like to be button-holed.
“Everyone tries to define me. I’m a common sense Democrat. I don’t believe it’s about going to the far left or the far right. It’s about trying to find the answers to the problems that we face. I’ll work with anybody. I’ll work with Democrats, I’ll work with Republicans, I’ll work with progressives, I’ll work with moderates. I’ll work with anybody to actually solve problems to get things done on behalf of the people I serve. I have a proven record throughout my career of always doing that. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about doing the correct thing to actually help people,” said Suozzi. “I have a deep record of progressive positions, of moderate positions. I’ve got a proven record of getting things done across the gamut. I have a proven record of getting things done that would fit into every single box that people would want to put me in.
“There’s a lot of differences between Andrew Cuomo and me so I don’t want to say that I’m running in the Cuomo lane. I don’t want to say that I’m running in anybody’s lane. I’m running in the Tom Suozzi lane. The Tom Suozzi lane is to get things done. I’m not anti-progressive. I’ve got a lot of progressive chops on things,” Suozzi concluded.
Suozzi said he has a vision for the future of New York State.
“I think income taxes and the property taxes in New York State are too high,” Suozzi told reporters. “The people believe that as well. Even the primary Democratic voters and general election voters think property taxes and income taxes in New York state are just too high. It’s stopping us from being successful with people staying here and bringing businesses here. We got to reduce the property taxes and reduce the income taxes. We have to reduce regulation. We have to make it more attractive for people to be here in New York State.”
Suozzi puts bail reform and high crime rates together in the same category.
“The answer to bail reform is to give judges the discretion to keep violent offenders off the streets,” Suozzi said. “The concept behind bail reform is that people based on rich and poor shouldn’t be stuck in jail awaiting their trial is a noble and correct idea. I believe in an idea of not incarcerating people for low-level offenses based on the fact that they can’t pay a minor amount of bail. We have to give judges the authority to remove violent offenders from the street. Sometimes someone will get arrested for a low-level offense but they have a history of violent crime. You give judges the power to remand people and I think that’s the answer here.”
For tenants who refuse to pay their rent and can’t be evicted during the pandemic, there is a good cause eviction law to assist landlords with getting their rent.
“We can’t have rent control everywhere throughout the state of New York,” Suozzi said. “We have to support the idea that private property owners have some rights here. You have to create more affordable housing. We have to address the affordability issue but we can’t make it so you can’t evict anybody under any circumstances whatsoever. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Several times Suozzi made a point of saying, “I’m not going to treat Covid and the economy as an afterthought. It’s got to be a full-time everyday thing. Covid and the effects on the economy have to always be there every single day. This is an issue that’s not going to go away for a while. We’re all exhausted by it. We’re all tired of hearing about it. We’ve got to get the doctors involved because people don’t want to hear from the politicians. Every single doctor in New York State should be sending out an email to their patients to get vaccinated and to get the boosters.”
With New York’s economy being the ninth-largest in the world, Suozzi also made the point that more can be done with the size of the state budget we already have.
“New York State has a $200 billion budget. It is larger than any Fortune 500 company. You need somebody who has the executive experience, who has the ideology and the common sense approach and who has the vision for what needs to be done in New York State,” Suozzi concluded.
Suozzi would not answer a question about assessing Hochul’s performance so far.
Suozzi said he has approximately “Three million dollars in my congressional campaign account which I could use for the gubernatorial race. The next filing is on January 10th and I’ve got to raise money.”
Suozzi has collected political chits during the past 16 years which he’s ready to cash in on now. On November 22, he was the keynote speaker at Assemblyman David Weprin’s campaign kickoff fundraiser in Manhattan.
“He’s very qualified to be governor,” Weprin told The Jewish Press. “In Congress, he’s been one of Israel’s strongest supporters. He certainly is someone that is a moderate, a mainstream Democrat. He has a similar political philosophy to mine. He’s someone I would feel very comfortable supporting as governor.
“He’s been a problem solver in Washington and he crosses party lines. He works well with everybody and I think he would make a great governor. He’s been a good friend, a strong supporter. He actually was one of the first elected officials to come out in support of my race for New York City comptroller this year, in which I was very proud of having his support. Certainly, there is no question that I would have to seriously consider supporting him for governor. I’m still not sure what I’m going to be doing yet but he’s someone I would feel very comfortable supporting as governor,” Weprin added.
Suozzi, a Catholic, resides in Glen Cove with his wife Helene, and their three children: Caroline, Joseph, and Michael.