Suozzi's bid for Nassau exec had troubles from the start

Thomas Suozzi speaks to his supporters following his

Thomas Suozzi speaks to his supporters following his loss to Ed Mangano in the race for Nassau County executive. (Nov. 5, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

Thomas Suozzi's trouncing at the hands of incumbent County Executive Edward Mangano did not come as a surprise to some Nassau Democrats.

The first sign of trouble came early, when Suozzi, who lost to Mangano in 2009, was supposed to be enthusiastically drafted by Democrats before the nominating convention.

But that didn't happen, in stark contrast to 2001, when Suozzi, the boyish mayor of Glen Cove, decided to make a run for the office.


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Back then, Democrats said, there was electricity in the air as the rank and file gathered, after Suozzi survived a primary, to put forth Suozzi's name.

Here was a candidate with promise, they remembered; someone who could extend the run started by Democrats in 2000, when the party won its first legislative majority in 70 years.

The promise of Suozzi as a smart, sophisticated public official was fulfilled in his first term, and things looked bright for county Democrats when Suozzi was re-elected for a second term.

This time around, as talk of a draft-Suozzi movement circulated in Democratic circles, the fireworks were gone.

Even as Suozzi prevailed in a primary, against newcomer Adam Haber, the turnout by Nassau Democrats was woefully low. That, some Democrats said, was a more ominous sign.

Still, for other Democrats, there seemed some small hope if -- through the efforts of outside consultants -- Democrats could persuade enough Nassau voters who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 to come out for Suozzi. That effort failed.

What went wrong?

For one, some Democrats said, party leadership made a mistake by being Suozzi-centric for more than a decade.

That, Republicans agree, played right into the GOP's hands. At one point, some Republicans had feared that Nassau Democrats would roll the dice with Haber, a wealthy Democrat who funded most of his primary run.

With Haber, the Republican mantra would have had to shift tactics. Haber had no record of raising county property taxes, or of giving himself a raise -- the lethal one-two GOP punch that worked against Suozzi.

This turned out to be an election where Nassau voters embraced the good news of no new property taxes, while rejecting the gloom and doom of debt and unbalanced budgets. Maybe dealing with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy made voters tougher, and more optimistic about the future. Or maybe Democrats made the mistake of banking on the idea that, like Superman, they would swoop down to save Nassau from a second fiscal collapse -- which did not happen during Mangano's first term.

Either way, the party's appeal, and message, were lost on voters in a county where Democrats and third-party voters are the majority. In Nassau's legislature, Democrats lost a seat.

Near the top of the ticket, Kathleen Rice handily outpolled her opponent in the district attorney's race. But Republican Howard Sturim, a relative unknown, managed to pull in a surprisingly high 41.3 percent.

Then there's Laura Gillen, the Democrat who lost her bid for county clerk. She still managed to garner more votes than Suozzi did for county executive.

Suozzi, a lawyer, will be just fine. But Nassau's Democrats, after more than a decade of standing on Suozzi's shoulders, will have to seek out new candidates, new sources of fireworks.