Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, looking anew at a political comeback, said he is forming an exploratory committee and will begin raising money for a possible run for retiring Rep. Steve Israel’s Gold Coast House seat.
Suozzi, 53, will make an announcement Tuesday at the Crest Hollow Country Club, becoming the fifth Democratic contender to officially announce a candidacy or form a fundraising committee for the Third District seat. But what sets Suozzi apart is that during his eight years as county executive, he represented more of the district, which spans Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, than any of his rivals.
Suozzi’s announcement comes as the Democratic field now totals 12 potential contenders, who are expected take part Wednesday in a candidate summit with party leaders set for the Glen Cove headquarters of Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs’s camp business.
“I’m starting the process,” said Suozzi. “I plan to go around the district, talk to people raise some money and talk it over with my wife, Helene, and the kids because it’s a big decision.”
He said he has always sought to be “a problem solver” and believes he has the government experience to make inroads with the Washington gridlock. “There’s a scandal every week, everyone’s going to jail, and nothing’s getting done,” he said. “We have to fix the dysfunction.”
Backers say Suozzi is a prodigious fundraiser and has a record of raising big issues, such as capping property taxes and combating Albany corruption.
Suozzi won two terms as county executive, but narrowly lost his bid for a third term in 2009 by a 386-vote margin in a race in which he left more than $2 million unspent in his campaign account. Three years ago, he lost a rematch with Mangano by a 59-to-41 percent margin. Earlier in his career, he served eight years as Glen Cove mayor and in 2006 lost a Democratic gubernatorial primary to then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. A CPA and lawyer, Suozzi now works of counsel at the law firm of Harris Beach.
Suozzi, in the past criticized for seeking higher office, said he intends to be more measured this time around and the prospect only arose because of Israel’s surprise decision to step aside. “Being out of office these past six years has made me a little humbler, a little wiser, little less brash and a little more patient,” he said.
E. O’Brien Murray, a spokesman for State Sen. Jack Martins of Old Westbury, a potential Republican opponent, criticized Suozzi: “He was thrown out of office by the voters and soundly rejected when he tried to get back in. No wonder he’s exploring.”
Others who have announced or are moving forward with campaign fundraising efforts include former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, now chairman of NIFA; Suffolk Legis. Steve Sterns of Dix Hills; North Hempstead town board member Anna Kaplan and lobbyist Brad Gerstman.
Those who have not announced but are expected to attend the leaders meeting include Assemb. Charles Lavine of Glen Cove; Robert Zimmerman, a national Democratic committee member; Suffolk Legis. Dr. Wiliam Spencer of Huntington; Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone; former Suffolk legislator Jon Cooper; Todd Richman, a Great Neck businessman and philanthropist; and Laurie Scheinman, a psychologist and philanthropist from Port Washington.
On the Republican side, Suffolk Legis. Robert Trotta of Fort Salonga has joined Martins, Assemb. Chad Lupinacci of Huntington Station and David Gurfein of Manhasset in forming exploratory committees for the race.
Editor’s note: Laurie Scheinman’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.