Former President Bill Clinton endorsed Thomas Suozzi for Nassau County executive Wednesday night, saying the candidate has the experience, managerial skills and vision to put the county back on the right fiscal track.
At a $150-per-plate fundraiser at Leonard's of Great Neck, Clinton said he "likes, admires and personally supports Tom Suozzi."
Clinton, the nation's 42nd president, told about 500 guests that Suozzi rescued the county's finances after years of Republican rule by making tough but necessary decisions, including raising taxes.
"He's got the only credible plan to get young people back here and to get jobs back here," Clinton said.
Clinton said he was "physically ill" when Suozzi, a former two-term county executive, lost his 2009 re-election to Republican Edward Mangano.
Mangano campaign spokesman Brian Nevin responded: "Tom Suozzi raised property taxes 23 percent, gave himself a $65,000 raise and for those reasons he'll never earn the support of Nassau taxpayers -- the only endorsement that counts."
Suozzi and Mangano, who will be endorsed by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Thursday, will square off in a rematch on Nov. 5.
Clinton flashed his trademark sense of humor during his 15-minute speech and poked holes in Mangano's central campaign theme -- that he hadn't raised taxes. Repeating a message of the Suozzi campaign, Clinton said Mangano mismanaged the assessment system, causing school taxes to rise.
"You can't be led into a better tomorrow on a platform of 'vote for me because of something I didn't do,' " Clinton said.
Clinton has been a longtime supporter of Suozzi. In 2008, Clinton headlined a $1,000-per-ticket golf outing in Glen Cove for Suozzi. Clinton also appeared in a video montage for Suozzi after his 2009 loss to Mangano.
In his remarks, Suozzi touted his record and said Mangano "drove the county into a ditch" with his fiscal policies.
"We can make this the greatest place in the country -- the model for a new suburbia," Suozzi said.
Suozzi has also been endorsed by New York's two Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and by Democrats in Long Island's House delegation. While Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has not endorsed Suozzi by name, on Sunday he told state Democratic leaders in Rye Brook that he is "supporting Democrats across the board statewide in county executive and mayoral races," Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said Wednesday.
Thursday, Suozzi will debut a new television ad citing Newsday's recent endorsement of his campaign. The ad touts Suozzi's vision for the county's future and blames Mangano for failing to repair the county's property assessment system, saying the administration has caused school taxes to increase.
Nevin said Suozzi was running a "desperate campaign of lies" and that school taxes increased 84 percent while Suozzi was county executive from 2002-09.