The aroma of fried zeppoles and sausage filled the air Saturday as the candidates for Nassau County executive courted voters at the same street fair -- both vowing to improve the county's fiscal health while holding down taxes.
Republican County Executive Edward Mangano and Democratic challenger Thomas Suozzi spent the afternoon at the Bellmore Family Street Festival posing for pictures and asking residents for their support in the Nov. 5 election.
The candidates -- who did not cross paths at the annual event -- were a contrast in style as they greeted voters.
Mangano moved slowly through the crowd, engaging in conversations about the county's summer concert schedule and President Barack Obama's embattled health care law.
"The main thing to me is that Mangano did not raise my taxes," said one fairgoer, Chris Rizzotti of North Massapequa.
Suozzi, meanwhile, seemed intent on reaching as many voters as possible, quickly shaking hands and introducing himself in rapid-fire fashion.
Policy discussions were rare, but voters appeared to react positively to Suozzi, a former two-term county executive who was narrowly defeated by Mangano in 2009.
"Tom always does the right thing by voters," said Frank Kobylarz of Westbury, as he sold meatball sandwiches at a Sons of Italy booth.
Mangano arrived at the fair shortly before 11 a.m. with his wife, Linda, and members of his staff, each wearing white T-shirts that proclaimed, "Thank you for not raising my taxes."
The candidate posed for pictures with Girl Scouts, received a wet kiss from a dachshund and made a brief speech at the opening of the festival, urging residents to support local businesses. "I am encouraged by the support of residents," Mangano said afterward. "They're clearly embracing my message of lower taxes and economic development."
Suozzi arrived an hour after Mangano left, repeatedly telling voters, "I need your help," as he walked down Bedford Avenue taking pictures with Little Leaguers and gobbling down a hot dog. "I am out here working very hard and asking people for their vote," he said.
Suozzi on Saturday also released his first television ad of the general election campaign -- a 30-second spot that accuses Mangano of "digging Nassau into debt."
The ad cites three local newspaper editorials, including Newsday's, that question Mangano's management of the county budget.
"This ad makes clear that you don't have to just take our word for it," Suozzi campaign manager Danny Kazin said. "Listen to what credible, independent sources say."
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin responded that Suozzi "left behind $378 million in budget deficits and massive property tax bills."