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Long IslandPolitics

Rep. Israel backs Steve Stern for 3rd District congressional seat

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) endorses Suffolk County Legis.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) endorses Suffolk County Legis. Steve Stern in the race to succeed him during a news conference in Port Washington on Monday, May 2, 2016. Israel is retiring at the end of the year and a crowded Democratic field has formed for the nomination. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Retiring Democratic Rep. Steve Israel on Monday endorsed Suffolk Legis. Steve Stern in the June 28 party primary for his 3rd District congressional seat, saying Stern’s priorities and values make him the “best fit.”

Israel, appearing at a news conference at North Hempstead Beach Park, touted Stern’s work for homeless veterans and the protection of Long Island Sound, his stand to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood and his opposition to tea party extremists as reasons for backing the Huntington lawmaker.

Stern thanked Israel as a “mentor” and vowed to prove to voters that he is the best contender “to fulfill Steve Israel’s legacy” and be “a strong voice for our counties.”

Israel’s endorsement of Stern comes as little surprise after Israel’s campaign staff joined Stern early on in his congressional bid after North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth turned down overtures to run for the seat.

While endorsing Stern, Israel also said, “I admire everyone in the race,” referring to the field of five that includes former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan, and attorney Jonathan Clarke.

Israel said he will “work very hard” to help Stern both in the primary and the November election without laying out any specifics.

Israel said he and Stern have been friends for nearly two decades and said he even watched him coach Little League. He said he waited until now to allow all the contenders a chance to establish themselves, but noted that Stern — with $500,000 — raised the most of any of the contenders in the contest. Israel said he told Stern of his endorsement decision at Sweet Hollow Diner about two weeks ago.

Critics, however, note that a significant part of Stern’s money is self-funded from $36,000 in a personal loan and a $32,000 donation, as well as $54,000 in donations from his in-laws. In addition, $154,000 of his funding cannot be used until after the primary.

Mike Florio, a Suozzi spokesman, said, “Voters are looking for a leader like Tom Suozzi who has a track record of standing up to powerful interests to get things done for people.”

While Stern has conceded he may not be as well known as Suozzi or Kaiman, Israel downplayed its significance in this turbulent election season. “Name recognition is not what it used to be,” Israel said.

Other contenders downplayed the impact. “It doesn’t mean much,” Clarke said. “People are tired of career politicians. Israel is one and Stern is just following in his footsteps. No one is more generic than Steve Stern.”

“He’s been with him since the beginning,” said Jeff Guillot, Kaiman’s campaign manager. “It actually would have been news if Steve Israel did not endorse Steve Stern.”

Guillot added that “we look forward to working with . . . [Israel] once we win the primary and we are all on the same side again.” He noted that Kaiman has the backing of Israel’s predecessor, former Rep. Gary Ackerman.

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