With the soon-to-be vacant seat of retiring Third District Congressman Steve Israel up for grabs, five candidates went head-to-head for the opportunity to take on New York State Republican Sen. Jack Martins as the Democratic Party’s nominee come November’s general election. Of those running, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi was victorious with more than a third of the votes.
According to the New York State Board of Elections, 6,532 voters chose Suozzi, who earned 35.33 percent of the votes. Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern, who was endorsed by Israel, finished the race in second with 22.01 percent (4,069 votes), followed by Nassau County Interim Finance Authority Chairman Jon Kaiman who ended with 21.96 percent (4,060 votes), North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan with 15.23 percent (2,815 votes) and attorney Jonathan Clarke with 4.92 percent (909 votes).
Suozzi’s victory was no surprise, as he raised the most funds during the campaign and also received the endorsement of The New York Times. No stranger to local politics, Suozzi, in fact, has been the dominant figure in Nassau County Democratic Party politics for nearly 20 years. A mayor of heavily-Republican Glen Cove from 1994-2001, Suozzi ran a renegade race for the Democratic Party nomination for the Nassau County Executive’s race in 2001. Earlier, in 2000, the Democrats had staged an upset victory in gaining control of the Nassau County legislature. Thomas DiNapoli, the current state comptroller, had helped to engineer that triumph. For that and for his standing as a member of the New York State Assembly, he received endorsements of many local officials, including then-Town of North Hempstead Supervisor May Newburger for the primary, a contest that now mattered greatly since the current executive, Thomas Gulotta, had chosen not to run for reelection due to the county’s escalating fiscal woes. It was clear that the winner of the Democratic Party primary would be the overwhelming favorite to win the county executive’s race. Suozzi then upset DiNapoli in the primary and defeated Bruce Bent in the general election. Suozzi won reelection in 2005.
In his second term, Suozzi ran for governor in 2006, only to be defeated by Eliot Spitzer in the Democratic Party primary. Suozzi had earlier promised to serve for only two terms, but decided to run for reelection in 2009, where he was upset by Ed Mangano. Suozzi was induced to run again in 2013, where he also came up short. The media quickly wrote political obituaries. However, when Steve Israel decided not to run for reelection, Suozzi, who is an heir to a famous Glen Cove political family, jumped back into the arena.
“I am so grateful and appreciative to the voters of the third congressional district for supporting me in the Democratic primary,” Suozzi said following the win. “It is clear the people in the district are looking for someone who has the ability to cut through the blame-game, finger-pointing and yelling that’s coming out of Washington these days. I have a long record of taking on the special interests and extremists on both sides to make big changes that benefit my constituents. I look forward to meeting and talking to all of the voters and [having] a discussion with both sides on many of the issues to come up with solid solutions.”
From the Roslyn area, Anna Kaplan, who represents East Hills on the Town of North Hempstead council, made her first run for the United States Congress. After the race, Kaplan issued her own statement.
“A huge thank you to my friends and supporters,” it read. “Though we came up short last night, I am proud of the campaign we ran and my heart is so full of gratitude.”
In the fall, Suozzi will face Jack Martins, who was elected to the New York State Senate in 2010 in a manner similar to Suozzi’s own campaigns. The two men are among the most energetic campaigners in county politics and the race will attract attention from the vast New York City area media, not to mention the eyes of political operatives from both of the national parties.