Neil Tiger, a former Suffolk Democratic elections commissioner, Southampton Democratic chairman and veteran party lawyer, has died after a yearlong battle with bladder cancer. He was 69.
Tiger died Thursday night at Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Quiogue, four days before his 70th birthday.
Tiger, an ardent progressive and an astute elections lawyer with a statewide reputation, began his work in Democratic politics in the late 1970s when the party was a consistent underdog to Republicans, who had a 2-to-1 edge in voter enrollment.
“Neil had a total commitment to the values of the Democratic Party,” said Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman. “He was good at being the conscience of the party.”
Usually attired in jeans, a flannel shirt and a corduroy sport jacket with patches, Schaffer added, “Neil was the party’s Columbo. He may not have looked the part but he always knew the answers.”
Tiger served three years as election commissioner from 2000 to 2002. He worked as executive director and counsel to Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. from 2003 to 2011 and remained a consultant for another year. He also was chairman of the Southampton Democratic committee in 1992 and a candidate for the county legislature the same year. Tiger also served as a consultant for several presidential campaigns, including that of former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley in 1999 and Sen. Paul Tsongas in 1992.
Jeff Casale, former president of Suffolk OTB and former Babylon Democratic chairman, said Tiger, as counsel for OTB, became an expert of the state’s arcane and complicated racing and wagering law.
“His counterparts from around the state would go to him. He was the go-to guy,” Casale said. “At our most discouraging moments, he would have a stroke of genius and the skies would be blue again.”
As an elections lawyer, Casale added, Tiger was patient with first-time candidates and usually offered his assistance without pay to help them qualify for the ballot. “He cared a great deal for the underdog,” said Abbe Tiger, his younger sister, a Manhattan lawyer. “He spent his life representing people who had no one else to help them.”
Born in Brooklyn, Neil Tiger moved to Long Island when he was about 9 and lived in Mineola and Commack before settling in Massapequa, where he attended high school. He attended Hofstra University for 18 months, but enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served from 1968 to 1972, rising to the rank of lieutenant and serving in South Korea and Turkey. After his discharge, he finished his bachelor’s degree at Hofstra and later graduated from Cornell Law School. Early in his career, he was a legal services attorney.
Tiger’s last campaign was in 2015, when he served as a consultant to former Suffolk Legis. Rick Montano and other insurgent Democrats in Islip Town who waged an unsuccessful primary bid against party candidates. The challenger lost.
Beyond his work in politics, Tiger was an avid fan of rock music, especially bands like the Allman Brothers and Hot Tuna, frequently attending live concerts.
Also surviving Tiger is his wife, Dr. Kaye Umana of Southampton. There are no plans for a public funeral service.