Many of Nassau's municipal unions will sit on the sidelines in the race between GOP County Executive Edward Mangano and his Democratic opponent Thomas Suozzi, citing contractual negotiations with the county and past disagreements with the candidates.
Leaders of the Civil Service Employees Association, the Detectives Association Inc. and the Superior Officers Association said they will not make endorsements in the race, in part because they are negotiating with Mangano over a new labor contract. Only the Correction Officers Benevolent Association and the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers have made endorsements, backing Suozzi. The Police Benevolent Association has not announced whether it will side with a candidate.
Experts say the absence of union support could pose a problem for Suozzi, who in a Newsday poll last week trailed Mangano by 17 points and could benefit from the traditional get-out-the-vote operations unions often provide to Democrats. Suozzi disputed the poll's findings, noting that in the county executive race in 2009 it put him ahead of Mangano by a wide margin, when Suozzi ended up losing his re-election bid by 386 votes.
Focus on wage freeze
"This is a surprising turn of events that certainly benefits Mangano," said Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia-based political consultant who works primarily for Republicans. "Unions by and large support Democrats. That's their normal alliance."
Hank Sheinkopf, Democratic political strategist from Manhattan, said the lack of union backing shows they "don't want to offend [Mangano] or gamble that he will lose. But that helps the incumbent, depriving the challenger of union resources, while the incumbent is almost always resource heavy."
Suozzi, county executive from 2002-2009, predicted county workers would support him Nov. 5: "I'm confident that I will have the support of the people who work for the county that want us to get out of the constant crisis caused by the current administration."
Many county unions supported Suozzi during his first two campaigns, but stayed out of his 2009 race after he asked for hefty givebacks during the 2008 recession. Traditionally, Nassau labor unions have supported incumbent candidates from both parties.
Mangano did not respond to a request for comment.
Nassau's five main labor unions, led by the PBA, said they want to get NIFA to lift a wage freeze it imposed on county workers in 2011.
NIFA members said earlier this month that the PBA proposal would throw the county's budget "further out of balance." The board provided no specific figures and said it was still reviewing the proposal.
Leaders of the CSEA, DAI and SOA said they have similar agreements with the county but provided no specifics.
CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta and other county labor leaders said they could not back Mangano after he laid off 400 county workers in 2011 and tried to pass a bill allowing him to alter closed union contracts.
Laricchiuta said that given the ongoing negotiations with Mangano, staying out of the race "is the practical thing to do. We are urging our members to vote with their heart."
Glen Ciccone, president of the DAI, said, "We are concentrating our efforts on a potential settlement with NIFA."
SOA president Brian Hoesl said the union has had issues with both Mangano and Suozzi, who he said "spent the first six years [in office] talking about how we made too much money. He didn't endear himself to us."
The correction union said it was still negotiating the parameters of a deal. COBA president John Jaronczyk said the endorsement of Suozzi "should not affect our day-to-day business with the county."
Expert: Voter turnout key
Stanley Klein, a political science professor at LIU Post in Brookville, said the danger for Suozzi is that union members will see the lack of an endorsement as a message from their leadership that it's acceptable not to get involved in the race.
"The risk is that county workers won't show up and vote," said Klein, a Huntington GOP committeeman.
But Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said unions and other "big-time players" typically "endorse front-runners, so it might indicate that they think it's closer than recent public polls suggest.
"Normally, the lack of any endorsement would help the better-known and -funded candidate who can better afford the loss of support," he said. "But they're both very well-known and -funded, so impact is hard to gauge." With Sid Cassese