More than a thousand Nassau Democrats gathered for their spring fundraiser Monday night, with a potentially divisive primary for Nassau County executive serving as the backdrop.
Former County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who faces businessman Adam Haber in the September primary, was the keynote speaker, using the platform to set himself apart from Haber and Republican County Executive Edward Mangano.
"This campaign is about the future of a place we call home," Suozzi said to the receptive crowd at the $650-a-plate dinner held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
"Having a business background is important, but it's not enough," Suozzi said. "You have to know how to get things done in government."
Haber attended the event briefly but left early before dinner and Suozzi's speech, saying he planned on canvassing local neighborhoods.
"I don't think it's a very democratic process to choose a candidate before the convention in May, but I guess that's the way party leaders see it," Haber said of the party's Suozzi endorsement.
"If you remember, Tom Suozzi was an unknown in 2001 running against Tom DiNapoli and was not the party person and he won. I believe it's been done before and can happen again."
Before the event, Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said that while he "liked" Haber, the party was backing Suozzi because of his experience running the county from 2001 to 2009 before being defeated by Mangano.
"I knew he could do it, because he's done it before and he's done it remarkably well," Jacobs said of asking Suozzi to run again.
Both Suozzi and Jacobs took aim at Mangano's repeated comments that he "inherited" a financial mess from Suozzi. Both said governments across the country were reeling from the effects of the recession.
"He's right, it was tough, it was tough all across America," Suozzi said.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin responded: "No matter what fairy tale Tom Suozzi tries to tell, residents know the truth about his double-digit property-tax hike record and legacy of wasteful spending. That reality is that Ed Mangano spent the last three years cutting taxes, reining in the size of government and creating private-sector jobs."