Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his Democratic opponent, Thomas Suozzi, crisscrossed the county Saturday in the final days of the campaign, with both candidates addressing distraught residents whose homes were destroyed by superstorm Sandy.
At a rally on the steps of the County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, Mangano told a crowd of more than 100 angry residents -- many of whom have been out of their homes for more than a year and carried signs reading "Still Homeless in Long Beach" -- that the disbursement of federal aid has been slow and inadequate.
"This is not a case where the money's not there," said Mangano, a Republican seeking re-election. "This is a case where the law is standing between you and your home."
Mangano said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should eliminate an insurance loophole that allows flood claims to be rejected because of "earth movement."
At the end of the rally, which was organized by Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA, composed of local homeowners affected by the storm, Suozzi stepped to the podium to speak but the microphone went dead.
Suozzi campaign officials said a Mangano aide shut off the microphone and ended the rally before the Democrat could talk. Mangano campaign spokesman Brian Nevin denied the accusation, but said only elected officials and Sandy victims were invited to speak.
Suozzi, a former two-term county executive who was defeated by Mangano in 2009, addressed the crowd without a mic but was interrupted by several homeowners who demanded immediate action by the state and federal government.
To cut through the red tape, Suozzi said, Nassau needs a master database of all residents who are still out of their homes and what services they require.
"Someone here on the local level needs to fight case by case to help you get through this system," Suozzi said. "No one is fighting for your interests."
Also on Saturday, Suozzi attended a pair of events where he was endorsed by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and Stephen McDonald, a New York City police detective who was shot in the line of duty in 1986, leaving him a quadriplegic. McDonald, a noted public speaker against gun violence, has never previously endorsed a candidate for county executive.
"I've known Tom a long time," McDonald said at a news conference outside of his Malverne home. "He knows how and what we need to live a peaceful, productive and happy life."
Suozzi called McDonald "one of my heroes" and said he would advocate for stricter state and federal gun control laws if elected. Mangano has said gun control is not a county issue.
Elsewhere Saturday, Mangano visited five Island Park businesses that have reopened since Sandy. "It shows the resilience of our business owners and that our economy is coming back," Mangano said.
Mangano began the day's campaigning in Seaford at the rebuilt Cedar Creek Park dog run, which had been wiped out by Sandy. The dog park was rebuilt with donated equipment and county labor. Gary Rogers, the county's emergency animal coordinator and spokesman for the Nassau County SPCA, said Mangano has proved that "he cares about animals."
On Sunday, Suozzi will begin a 36-hour "barnstorm" tour of the county in an RV. The tour will include visits to churches, supermarkets, train stations and diners.
Mangano on Sunday will participate in a veterans parade in Lynbrook, hold a news conference on the redevelopment of Island Park and visit a Sandy tribute event in Lawrence.