Mangano, Suozzi must court multicultural Nassau

Tom Suozzi, candidate for Nassau County Executive, discusses

Tom Suozzi, candidate for Nassau County Executive, discusses Mangano administration borrowing at his office in Uniondale. (July 16, 2013) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his predecessor, Thomas Suozzi, will have to pull in every vote they can come Election Day.

And that includes the growing ethnic and minority community that, in the Democratic primary Suozzi won over challenger Adam Haber, was split.

Demographics in Nassau have changed considerably since Suozzi first sought office 12 years ago, and the county has become more diverse still in the four years since Mangano took office. Nonwhites currently make up 35 percent of Nassau's population, census figures show.


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Politically, it was enough to be Republican in Nassau even two decades ago.

Not anymore.

Overall, the county -- like the rest of Long Island -- is now roughly one-third Republican, one-third Democrat and one-third third-party or no-party-affiliated voters.

"That leaves almost everything wide open," said Mark Dawidziak, a political consultant who has run campaigns for both Republicans and Democrats.

To win big in what is expected to be a very tight race, Mangano, a Republican, and Suozzi, a Democrat, will have to try to appeal beyond their own parties.

In the quest for votes, they'll also have to reach out to the largest-growing segment of county voters -- Asians, Hispanics, East Asian, Caribbean and other residents.

Already, in election districts that include Elmont, a coalition of multiethnic Nassau residents found significant success.

In 2011, a newcomer, CarriƩ Solages, a Democrat, pulled off a victory against longtime -- and locally popular -- lawmaker John Ciotti.

One year later, the coalition did it again, sending newcomer Michaelle Solages -- the county lawmaker's sister -- to the New York State Assembly.

Michaelle Solages pulled two-thirds of the vote in a new district carved from pieces of three existing ones.

In May, CarriƩ Solages introduced Thomas Suozzi at the county's Democratic convention. On Tuesday, the lawmaker stood near Suozzi as he made his victory speech.

But Suozzi, even during the Democratic primary, found that he had competition for black and Hispanic votes when Haber won some key endorsements.

Some Suozzi supporters privately complained that some Haber supporters held a grudge against the former county executive.

Much in the way, perhaps, that some North Hempstead Democrats who'd supported former state Legis. Thomas DiNapoli over Suozzi in a bitter primary war 12 years ago do.

But DiNapoli, who is now state comptroller, has made his peace with Suozzi, going so far as to endorse his former rival in Tuesday's primary.

On Tuesday, Haber, in his concession speech, made a point of pledging -- repeatedly -- to continue focusing on the concerns of minority supporters.

Mangano and Suozzi may want to double down on that kind of effort, too.

But if the primary is any indication, Mangano and Suozzi have a lot of work to do: Tuesday's turnout, as expected, was downright dismal at 9 percent.

Turnout was lousy when Mangano and Suozzi ran against each other in 2009's general election as well.

The excitement the pairing failed to generate then likely will come now during what is anticipated to be a very tough, very tight race.

That's good.

Because when every vote matters, every potential voter does, too.

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