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Suozzi kicks off campaign in earnest

Former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi with his

Former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi with his wife, Helene, walk through a crowd of supporters at his kickoff rally to campaign for the office he was voted out of in 2009. (Aug. 3, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Nassau County executive candidate Thomas Suozzi rallied hundreds of supporters at the opening of his new campaign headquarters in East Meadow Saturday morning.

As a light rain fell on the crowd, which had a large union presence, Democrat Suozzi blasted incumbent Republican Edward Mangano's handling of the county's finances. He noted that credit agencies had downgraded Nassau's bond rating over the past four years but had upgraded it during Suozzi's two terms, before Mangano was elected.

"The place is falling apart," he said. "The taxes are too high, our young people are moving away. We have to wake up to the reality that what this administration is doing is making things worse."

Suozzi said the main issues in the race were the county's finances and long term stability.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said that Suozzi raised taxes during his two terms while the incumbent had held the line on tax hikes.

"County Executive Mangano has closed the deficit he inherited while freezing property taxes for three straight years," Nevin said. "County Executive Mangano will do whatever it takes to prevent a property tax hike on our residents."

Suozzi is sharing his headquarters with other Democrats -- District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Nassau comptroller candidate Howard Weitzman and Nassau County clerk candidate Laura Gillen -- in what he said was an unprecedented level of coordination.

"We've never been this united before," Suozzi said in an interview. Though his candidacy had been announced months ago, his campaign called Saturday's event a kickoff.

Suozzi faces a Sept. 10 primary against Adam Haber.

Haber spokesman Galen Alexander said that Suozzi "had to be convinced to enter this race. Voters deserve an executive who cares about the people rather than his political career."

After the rally, Suozzi went door to door in the streets behind his new office to shake hands with potential voters. Lisa Snyder, a 47-year-old registered Republican who voted for Mangano in 2009, listened to Suozzi talk about taxes and jobs. She said she was undecided.

"You don't see a lot of changes happening," Snyder, a special-education teacher, said.

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