Thomas Suozzi, a former two-term Nassau County executive, defeated businessman Adam Haber late last night in the Democratic primary, setting the stage for a rematch with Republican County Executive Edward Mangano in the November general election.
With all precincts reporting just after midnight, Suozzi had 59 percent of the vote and Haber 41 percent -- or 19,271 votes to 13,566. Voter turnout was 9 percent, according to the county board of elections.
In his victory speech before an energized crowd in Glen Cove, Suozzi turned his attention to Mangano.
"This campaign is a fight for our future," Suozzi said. "This campaign is about where we want Nassau County to head. Do we want to continue with these policies of borrow, borrow, borrow, spend, spend, spend? If we do, we'll have no future."
Haber, in a concession speech to supporters in Hempstead said: "I will continue to be an advocate for everyone in this room."
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin responded to Suozzi's victory by focusing on the Democrats who did not vote for Suozzi in the primary, and on tax hikes during his tenure as county executive from 2002-2009.
"With over 10,000 Democrats rejecting Tom Suozzi, we look forward to debating Suozzi's record of hiking property taxes by 23 percent," Nevin said.
On the campaign trail, Suozzi, 51, of Glen Cove, touted his eight years as county executive and eight years as Glen Cove mayor as he fended off a challenge from Haber, 48, an East Hills businessman and Roslyn school board member.
Haber, who largely self-financed his campaign with $3 million in loans, billed himself as a political outsider who would use his business background to tackle the county's debt.
Haber had received the endorsement of the Nassau County Liberal Party, providing him an opportunity to run as a third-party candidate in the general election. Last night he deflected questions about a possible November run on the minor party line, saying his goal was not to "destroy the Democratic Party."
Nassau Democratic Party leaders had sought to avoid Tuesday's primary altogether, giving Suozzi their endorsement and providing him with manpower. Haber refused to bow out, arguing that he brought new ideas to the table.
Suozzi virtually ignored Haber's bid during the primary election.
Instead, Suozzi targeted Mangano in his campaign ads and mailers, contending that Mangano had mishandled the county's finances and relied too heavily on borrowing.
Suozzi said that when he was county executive from 2002 to 2009, Nassau had eight budget surpluses and 13 bond upgrades. He said his record shows that he can reduce the county's nearly $3 billion debt.
But Mangano's campaign often has cited the two property tax increases that passed under Suozzi's administration.
Haber courted voters in the "Nassau Corridor" communities, including Uniondale, Hempstead, Roosevelt and Freeport -- which helped yield some name attention for his underdog bid.
Outside of the Freeport Public Library, voter Ana Rodriguez, 61, said Tuesday that she planned to vote for Haber because she recognized his signs posted throughout her neighborhood.
"I don't know him that well, but I think he could do a good job, " said Rodriguez.
Several Suozzi supporters said his experience was reason enough for them to vote for him in the primary.
"He's been visible in the community for years," said Carol Segal, 62, as she prepared to vote at Robert M. Finley Middle School in Glen Cove.
With Robert Brodsky and Sid Cassese