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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Pondering an Edward Mangano-Tom Suozzi rematch

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, right, speaks with

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, right, speaks with former County Executive Thomas Suozzi in Mineola. (Dec. 2, 2009) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A rematch may look exciting at first glance. Consider Adlai Stevenson against President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Rudy Giuliani versus Mayor David Dinkins, or even Randy Altschuler against Rep. Tim Bishop in Suffolk.

When it comes to private citizen Tom Suozzi looking to take on his 2009 rival, Nassau Executive Edward Mangano, you can almost sing along with the anticipated messages and counter-messages.

"Mangano drove Nassau into the fiscal dumps!"

"Suozzi left a mess for Mangano to clean up!"

"Ed didn't raise taxes!"

"Taxes rose under Ed!"

Before anyone starts hyping this scenario as a political incarnation of Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed, consider a few of the practical complications that lie ahead.

There are some in the Democratic Party, statewide and regionally, who say privately that introducing a new face could benefit their side.

One veteran Nassau Democrat offered this analysis: If Suozzi is the candidate, the debate focuses on who is to blame for the county's current fiscal problems. "If Adam Haber, a newcomer, is the guy, then all of a sudden it's about Mangano's record, not Suozzi's record," said the Democrat, who declined to be identified and is unaligned with a county candidate.

The governor is relevant to county races, if only because he heads his state party organization. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has kept cordial relations with Mangano, but also has never displayed any affinity for Suozzi.

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, who led the "convince Tom" theatrics, served as state party chairman under Cuomo, for a while. But Jacobs -- who by the way also has been a big Hillary Clinton booster -- began as state chairman under Gov. David A. Paterson, a longtime friend of Suozzi's.

And in 2006, when Cuomo was trying to work his way back from an ill-fated race for governor four years earlier -- by running for attorney general -- Suozzi was trying to leap ahead by running for governor. Then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer trounced Suozzi in the primary.

This week, Jon Kaiman, the North Hempstead supervisor, filed his "exploratory" committee for county executive. By all accounts, Kaiman and Cuomo speak with each other, and some Nassau insiders even believe that Cuomo encouraged Kaiman to run. Neither man has confirmed or denied that.

Now that Suozzi's in the race -- with $1.1 million remaining in his campaign fund after his 2009 defeat -- the question becomes whether Kaiman will back off, as some friends of the supervisor predict. If Kaiman does not, that could signal a factional divide of the type that once set Suozzi against Democrat Thomas DiNapoli, now the state comptroller, for the county executive nomination in 2001.

For Cuomo, party dynamics become important next year, when he plans to seek re-election. He's expected to make a full effort on Long Island, of course -- where it would help to have friends in charge of the county organizations.

State politics, however, takes a backseat for the moment. For now, it's about whom Nassau's "out" party wants to oppose Mangano, who by weight of incumbency alone has to be considered the front-runner for re-election -- as was Suozzi, four years ago.

In one sense, Mangano may have the most to gain; if he beats Suozzi again, it would suggest that his 2009 upset was more than a fluke.

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