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Democratic Nassau County executive candidate Adam Haber is coming under fire from Italian-American groups for a television ad portraying “political hacks” eating pasta and drinking red wine as they discuss his opponent Thomas Suozzi’s record.
The ad also prompted a prominent Elmont civic leader to withdraw his support for Haber, a Roslyn school board member who is making his first run for countywide office.
Pat Nicolosi, the president of the Elmont East End Civic Association, said Monday that he can no longer back Haber and is throwing his support behind Suozzi in the September Democratic primary.
Nicolosi, a first generation Italian-American, said he found the ad derogatory.
“The ad stereotypes Italians as if they are all in the Mafia,” said Nicolosi, who previously served as an Elmont school board trustee and ran unsuccessfully for the State Assembly. “I found it offensive. It was uncalled for.”
Nicolosi is calling on Haber to pull the ad, which began airing on cable channels across the county last week, and issue an apology to Nassau’s Italian-American community.
Haber spokesman Galen Alexander said the campaign would not take down the ads, but said “Adam would never stereotype any ethnicity."
“Most Americans eat pasta, but only one Democratic county executive failed in his chance to make Nassau work for middle-class families," Alexander said. "Facts are facts, and Suozzi doled out millions in raises to himself and his appointees while raising taxes on middle-class families. . . . Nassau deserves better.”
In the ad, five men, identified as political “hacks,” are seen sitting around a table in what appears to be an Italian restaurant under a “Cinzano sign,” slurping spaghetti, drinking red wine and discussing how to get Suozzi back in office.
The “hacks” toast Suozzi for giving $1.1 million in pay raises to political appointees in 2007; for a $65,000 salary raise he gave himself later that year and for hiring retired police detectives as taxpayer-funded drivers.
But, when one bespectacled “hack” complains that Suozzi imposed tax hikes and left the county with “massive debt,” another large man menacingly slams the table and screams “Ay.”
The hack then sheepishly withdraws his concerns.
Update: On Tuesday morning, Nicolosi said he had reconsidered his stance and would stay neutral in the Democratic primary. Nicolosi said he would consider supporting Suozzi if he presents a stronger vision for his campaign.