In eight months, Nassau voters will choose their county executive for the next four years. We hope the time before Election Day will be used by the candidates to focus on solutions to what seems a perpetual financial crisis.
The decision by Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat, to try to take back the seat he lost to Republican incumbent Edward Mangano in 2009 guarantees a lively campaign, but it must be a substantive one as well -- by all who are running. Residents who are paying high taxes for declining services won't put up with a petty, partisan campaign. The first reactions to Suozzi's candidacy unfortunately point to precisely that kind of battle.
Mangano, through his spokesman, said Suozzi left the county an "utter mess." But it was Mangano's policies that triggered the return of a state financial oversight board. And businessman Adam Haber, who had previously declared himself ready and self-funded to make a run for the Democratic nomination, responded to Suozzi's announcement with incendiary rhetoric. North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who earlier this week started an exploratory committee, has remained silent about his plans.
The challenge for Suozzi is to make a compelling case for his comeback by offering the big, bold ideas that rescued a failing county when he debuted as an insurgent in 2001. Suozzi acknowledges that ambition for higher office distracted him from the work that needed to be done in his second term.
As the county continues to teeter, the stakes get higher. And to earn the support of Nassau's voters, any candidate who wants to be taken seriously had better realize it.