Less than a week before Election Day, incumbent Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi stepped up his attack against GOP opponent Edward Mangano even as the challenger hammered away about high property taxes in a poor economy and accused Suozzi of being ineffective in stopping them.
"Tom Suozzi has led us in the wrong direction," said Mangano, a 14-year Republican legislator from Bethpage, during a live debate Wednesday night at the News 12 studios in Woodbury. "He had eight years to fix this system. It's unacceptable."
The one-hour exchange was considerably more pointed than Tuesday's debate at Hofstra University, which also included Conservative candidate Steve Hansen. Supporters of the three candidates agreed that Suozzi, a Democrat seeking a third term, was noticeably tougher in his attacks on Mangano.
"I'm running on my record," said Suozzi, warning voters that choosing Mangano would be a return to the longtime GOP control of the county government, which ended when Suozzi was elected county executive in 2001. Suozzi said that he had successfully "cleaned up the mess that we were left in the county and improved the services."
Twice during the debate Suozzi said Mangano never voted independently when the Republicans were in power.
But after the debate, Mangano said he believed Suozzi's stepped-up attacks were a sign that Mangano's campaign was narrowing the once double-digit gap between them among voters. "It reflects that we're getting close," he said as he left the studio.
During this campaign, Suozzi has emphasized his efforts to turn around Nassau's finances by controlling county spending and asking state lawmakers to cap Medicaid costs and property tax increases. He also pointed out that his job has no power over local school costs, which he said are "too high" and account for more than 65 percent of property taxes paid by Nassau County residents.
During his remarks, Suozzi said Mangano's plan to "freeze" the county's property tax assessments was "irresponsible." He said the county's property assessment system was "better than it was" when he took office and promised to solve the remaining problems within two years. He said that the county's crime rate was at a 30-year low and underlined that next year's budget would keep taxes the same.
In his remarks, Conservative Hansen, a $90,410-a-year deputy county attorney, said that both major parties "had gotten away from traditional values" and gone on "spending sprees," which he promised to end. Despite their differences, all three candidates support the proposed Lighthouse project in Uniondale.