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Few Clouds 40° Good Evening
Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Instructor Suozzi has looked at elected life from both sides now

Tom Suozzi, private citizen, stepped inside from a cold drizzle late Tuesday afternoon to lecture a few dozen students of government on Staten Island’s Wagner College campus.
He moved into the classroom and gave a peppy presentation of the themes he’s been working for years — his “Fix Albany” pitch — about all that’s wrong with the state and its Capitol.
Long-term incumbency helps lawmakers avoid confronting problems, he said, and “there needs to be competition by the parties and the candidates — over who has the better ideas.”
One student picked up on the former Nassau executive’s statement and quizzed him on term limits. Suozzi’s response held an interesting twist.
“I was always against term limits,” Suozzi said. “I don’t like them. And theoretically .... if you get a good person you elect them to stay in as long as possible, if you have a bad person the voters should throw them out.”
“But,” he added, “that’s not working. I am looking to maybe change my position on term limits — because I’m so frustrated with the system.”
He happened to make this visit at the advent of the season of Steve Levy — the latest Long Island county executive, elected as a Democrat turning out a GOP incumbent, to run for governor.
Suozzi was introduced by Seymour Lachman, the former state senator and director of the college’s Hugh L. Carey Center for Government Reform. Lachman said: “He has been an outstanding public official — and I predict he will be an outstanding public official in the near future.”
Suozzi let Lachman’s prediction slide. And as he left, he quickly made it clear that he would not comment on Levy’s bid either. That’s generally been his practice about the current elections since losing the executive post by a razor-thin, low-turnout upset last November.
He ought to have a unique perch as a spectator, though.
As Suozzi did four years ago, Levy is running for governor during his second county term. As Suozzi did, Levy is touting his record of squelching county deficits and wrestling with local tax burdens. As Suozzi did, Levy is preparing to oppose a Democratic attorney general with strong polling and flush funds.
Unlike Suozzi, Levy ditched his Democratic affiliation. Unlike Suozzi, Levy drew adulation from pundits on the right for his positions on illegal immigration. Unlike Suozzi, Levy has backing from key major-party officials, such as the Republican state chairman. His forum as underdog won’t be a primary — possibly a general election.
Sidelined for the moment, Suozzi sounded from the lectern like a seasoned analyst of big-picture problems, which he is: Upstate economic devastation; party-controlled redistricting; the burden of rising health and education costs; special-interest control of bills; failure to prioritize projects.
As for his term-limit shift, Suozzi said: “I’ll probably decide after this year’s election, because if you don’t see dramatic change during this year’s election you’ll probably never see dramatic change ... You keep on seeing people get re-elected, re-elected, re-elected — despite the fact that the system is completely broken.”
Spoken like a true and new outsider, who Lachman suggests may not be one for long.

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