Thomas Suozzi and Adam Haber face off in first debate

Adam Haber, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive,

Adam Haber, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive, chats with supporters after a candidates forum in Lakeview. (Aug. 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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Adam Haber had expected to be the only candidate at Friday night's forum for Democrats running for Nassau County executive, and then Thomas Suozzi made a last-minute decision to attend.

Earlier in the week, Suozzi's campaign told Newsday that he didn't plan to appear at the forum, but organizers said they received "late notice" just before the 7:30 p.m. event at Harold Walker Memorial Park that he planned to show up.

Suozzi, 51, a former two-term county executive, touted his experience as necessary to fix Nassau's finances, while Haber, 48, an East Hills businessman and Roslyn school board member, said he'd apply his business background to tackling the county's debt and creating jobs.

"We tried someone else for eight years," Haber said, referring to Suozzi. "It's time to get someone new with a fresh perspective."

Suozzi, who has been endorsed by the Nassau Democratic Committee and several unions, told the crowd of about 100 people: "There's a reason I've been endorsed by all these groups. It's because I have a proven record."

The debate was a win for voters, organizers said.

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"I'm very pleased they both decided to participate because the voters deserve to make an educated decision," said Darrin Green, president of the Long Island chapter of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, one of the event organizers.

The 1 1/2-hour primary debate featured a moderator, who went beyond Nassau finances to ask the candidates about their plans for the police department and environmental protection.

"I'm hoping we can all work together to make Nassau the best it can be," Suozzi told the group of largely Haber supporters.

Haber, who sought additional debates leading up to the Sept. 10 primary, said, "I'm happy he showed up, I just wish we had 17 more of these."

The two are slated to debate on News 12 Long Island from 7 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The primary winner will face Republican County Executive Edward Mangano in the November general election.

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