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Thomas Suozzi leads Adam Haber in primary for Nassau executive, Newsday/Siena College poll finds

Left, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive Thomas

Left, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who will face Adam Haber, right, in the primary election. (Aug. 22, 2013, Aug. 23, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp, Danielle Finkelstein

Nassau County Executive candidate Thomas Suozzi holds a commanding lead over challenger Adam Haber heading into the Sept. 10 Democratic primary, and a possible November general election rematch between Suozzi and Republican County Executive Edward Mangano may be a tight race, according to a Newsday/Siena College poll.

Suozzi, a former two-term county executive, leads among likely Democratic primary voters 58 percent to Haber's 25 percent in the poll conducted Aug. 18-25. The results for those primary voters have a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Mangano and Suozzi are virtually tied, with 42 percent of all registered voters surveyed saying they would vote for Suozzi to 41 percent for Mangano, with 17 percent undecided. The results -- which fall within the poll's 2.4-point margin of error for all registered voters -- mirror the tight 2009 race in which Mangano defeated Suozzi by 386 votes.

The poll surveyed 1,715 Nassau registered voters, including a pool of 502 Democratic respondents who said they were likely to vote in the primary.

"The short story as far as the Democratic primary is concerned is something real amazing has to occur for Tom Suozzi not to win," said Donald P. Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute. "When it comes to Mangano and Suozzi, you can't get any closer at this point . . . Suozzi does pretty well holding onto his own Democratic voters; maybe he'll do a little better when the primary heat is over."

Campaign spokesmen for Suozzi and Mangano declined to comment directly on the polling figures, but issued statements touting their candidates.

"Ed Mangano's mismanagement and record-breaking debt are bankrupting our children's futures," Suozzi spokesman Danny Kazin said. "Voters in Nassau know that Tom Suozzi is the one candidate in this race with a proven track record of repairing Nassau's finances, cutting debt, reducing borrowing and presenting a clear vision for our future."

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said: "Residents have a clear choice between Tom Suozzi who raised property taxes and Ed Mangano who didn't. Nevertheless, the only poll that matters is that of the residents on Election Day."


Name-recognition factor

Haber, an East Hills businessman and Roslyn school board member, has loaned his campaign $3 million and spent thousands in airing three TV ads attacking Suozzi's record. But he has struggled to match Suozzi's name recognition, according to the poll results.

Asked to rate the favorability of each candidate, 74 percent of respondents said they had no opinion of Haber, while 15 percent said they had a favorable opinion and 10 percent said unfavorable.

Among Democrats, 66 percent said they had no opinion, the poll found. "Haber's unknown to two-thirds of Democrats with a very short time before the elections," Levy said.

If Haber were to face Mangano in the general election, 31 percent of respondents said they would vote for him compared with 47 percent for Mangano.

Haber campaign spokesman Galen Alexander said in a statement that "our internal polling show a much closer race and we hear that Tom's does too."

"After months of pretending he didn't have a primary opponent, the last three days have seen . . . [Suozzi] agree to a debate and his party cronies make a direct attack on the Haber campaign," Alexander said. "Clearly, he is worried. Let's not forget that Suozzi in 2009 thought he would win with his 22-point lead," referring to a poll at the time.

While 47 percent of respondents said they believed Nassau County was headed in the wrong direction, 57 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Mangano, 27 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 15 had no opinion.

Fifty-three percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Suozzi, 31 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 16 percent had no opinion.

Brittany Gilliam, 25, of Hempstead, a registered Democrat who is attending school and working as a home health aide, said she planned on voting for Suozzi in the primary because "he has a better chance of making Nassau better, faster -- of getting things done. It seems like nothing is getting done in Nassau now."

Republican Celine Gallagher, 52, of Baldwin, said she was voting for Mangano because he did not raise taxes. "Ed Mangano has done a good job in the three years he's been there," said Gallagher, who works as an operating room scheduler for a hospital. "I thought he responded well to superstorm Sandy."


Race for county comptroller

The candidates for Nassau comptroller -- Republican George Maragos, who currently holds the post, and Democrat Howard Weitzman, who previously held the position -- were hardly recognized by poll respondents. Asked to rate the favorability of each candidate, 75 percent of respondents said they had no opinion of Maragos and 69 percent had no opinion of Weitzman.

Twenty-seven percent of those polled said they would re-elect Maragos, who ran unsuccessfully in the U.S. Senate Republican primary last year, and 32 percent said they would prefer someone else; 41 percent had no opinion.

"It's a little surprising that neither of them is really known," Levy said. "Weitzman held the office, Maragos had an elevated profile in his run for Senate . . . it's interesting that the race hasn't registered more especially in Nassau County given how much energy is focused on the county's financial affairs, where you have NIFA [Nassau Interim Finance Authority] overseeing the county's finances."

Maragos said he was not surprised by the polling figures, noting that "a lot of voters haven't focused on the comptroller race yet."

"We're going to be running a very aggressive campaign and I'm confident voters will realize what we've done protecting the taxpayers and not raising property taxes," Maragos said.

Weitzman seized on the polling figures to criticize Maragos' record. In an email, Weitzman wrote: "The county's bond rating has been lowered three times since he took office and he has repeatedly issued financial statements that have been late and misleading, costing taxpayers money."

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, a Democrat, received a 60 percent favorable rating from respondents, while 19 percent held an unfavorable opinion of Rice and 21 percent had no opinion.

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