Tom Suozzi's political career has been marked by major highs and lows. NewsdayTV's Macy Egeland and Newsday Nassau County politics reporter Scott Eidler report. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez

In the summer of 1991, Tom Suozzi was in a bind. He had volunteered to chair the City of Glen Cove's Democratic Party and needed a candidate to run for mayor. His pick had dropped out of the race.

During the city’s Feast of St. Rocco celebration, Suozzi walked into a church to pray and asked the priest for spiritual advice. “You’ve got to find someone to take the fall,” the priest said.

Suozzi decided to make the run himself, and that evening rushed to the post office to deliver a notarized document by the midnight deadline.

Suozzi, then 29, lost the race to Republican incumbent Donald DeRiggi. But the frenetic campaign “hooked” him on politics, Suozzi told Newsday recently, and two years later he ran again for mayor and defeated John Maccarone, a Republican city councilman.

Suozzi's political career in the more than three decades since has been marked by major highs and lows. He served two terms as Nassau County executive and six years representing the 3rd Congressional District — but also ran unsuccessful campaigns for New York governor against Eliot Spitzer and Kathy Hochul.

Now, he's the Democratic candidate in the widely watched special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District on Feb. 13. Early voting began Saturday.

Suozzi faces Republican nominee Mazi Melesa Pilip, a Nassau County legislator from Great Neck, in the contest to fill the seat after the expulsion of former GOP Rep. George Santos.

Suozzi said after his loss in 2022 to Hochul in the Democratic primary for governor that he was surprised to get calls from Democrats urging him to run for his former seat in the House. He had spent the primary lobbing attacks at Hochul, the state's top Democrat, and had placed third in that race.

“This is the first time people are encouraging me to run for office,” Suozzi told Newsday at his office in Glen Cove. “Throughout most of my career, I was not encouraged to run for anything.”

In stump speeches in the special election campaign, Suozzi paints himself as a moderate bent on engineering compromises on difficult issues. In the House he served as vice chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Democratic and Republican House members who bill themselves as bipartisan dealmakers.

Across the 3rd District, which covers Nassau’s North Shore, dips south to communities such as Levittown and Massapequa and includes parts of northwestern Queens, Suozzi campaign signs with his slogan “Let’s Fix This!” and reading, “Tom Suozzi Stands With Israel,” dot major roadways.

He talks about crises he hopes to help solve with Republicans: climate change, the influx of migrants at the southern border and depression among teenagers addicted to social media.

“People, I believe, are hungering for public officials to actually hear what they’re saying,” Suozzi said. “They want us to fix the problems. They don’t want us all fighting with each other and saying you’re no good, and you’re no good, and attack, attack, attack.”

Republicans portray Suozzi as a member of the old guard who’s had his day.

In a speech to Nassau Republicans last month at The Lannin restaurant in East Meadow, Pilip said: “Suozzi [is] claiming he's going to go back to fix things. He has been there for six years. He broke everything. For Suozzi, [it’s] another job.” 

Suozzi was born in Glen Cove on Aug. 31, 1962, the youngest of five siblings.

His parents, Marguerite Holmes Suozzi and Joseph A. Suozzi, raised Tom, his sister and three other brothers in a home on Tulane Road.

His mother worked as an operating room nurse at Glen Cove Community Hospital, where Suozzi was born. She founded the Morgan Park Summer Music Festival in Glen Cove and served as its chairwoman for more than 50 years.

His father immigrated to the United States in 1925 from Ruvo del Monte, a village in southern Italy.

Joseph Suozzi served in the U.S. Army in World War II as a navigator on a B-24, completing 35 missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

After the war, he graduated from Harvard Law School on the GI Bill. But Tom Suozzi remembers his father recalling widespread prejudice against Italian Americans, and how no law firm would hire him.

At 28, Joseph Suozzi became a City Court judge in Glen Cove, and later was elected mayor and as a state Supreme Court justice.

Tom Suozzi and Helene Wrotniak were engaged at a gazebo on the Morgan Park waterfront, and were married in 1993. They have three children — Michael, Joseph and Caroline.

As he campaigns in the 3rd District, Suozzi refers frequently to his long political career.

As Glen Cove mayor, he oversaw the revitalization of 214 acres of waterfront property around Hempstead Harbor, helping secure federal and state grants to clean up hazardous waste sites.

Suozzi points to closure of the city's incinerator as one of his biggest achievements. He arranged for a garbage carter to move into the incinerator building, collect the waste for $45-per-ton less than the prior carter and ship it elsewhere. The deal saved the city $900,000 annually, he said.

By 1995, the weight of the job had taken a significant toll on Suozzi's health.

On a Caribbean cruise with his family, he felt excruciating back pain, and ended up taking an air ambulance to a hospital in Miami for emergency surgery.

“I ended up being paralyzed from the waist down because I was working so hard — on being the mayor, raise taxes, fighting with everybody, building new buildings,” Suozzi recalled

“I still walk with a limp,” he said.

In 2001, Suozzi ran for Nassau County executive, defeating then-state Assemb. Thomas DiNapoli in the Democratic primary, and Republican financier Bruce Bent in the general election.

In the primary, Suozzi and his campaign chairman, Jay Jacobs, now the Nassau and state Democratic Party leader, portrayed Suozzi as an outsider and DiNapoli as part of the party establishment. DiNapoli had chaired the Nassau County Democratic Committee before resigning to run for county executive.

DiNapoli, the New York State comptroller, is backing Suozzi’s bid in the 3rd District, although he supported Hochul in the 2022 gubernatorial primary.

In an interview, DiNapoli called Suozzi a “relentless campaigner.”

But DiNapoli said that during the county executive primary, he had to “bristle” at Suozzi's portrayal of himself as an outsider.

“It’s hard to argue when you’re born into political royalty in Glen Cove,” DiNapoli said recently. “In the end, he actually was more establishment than me, although he was able to project that he wasn’t.”

Some argue Suozzi has run for office too many times.

“You can be around too long and you can look like you're always looking at the next office,” said former Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who retired in 2020 after 28 years in the House.

Suozzi also tries too hard to please, King said.

“He tries too much to smooth the difference to keep people happy,” King said. “He's always trying to show there’s a dispute and he can broker the difference.”

Suozzi was elected Nassau County executive as the county struggled with a severe budget crisis. Suozzi's first budget raised the county portion of the property tax by 19.4% in 2003 and cut the total county workforce by 15% by reducing funding for about 1,400 jobs.

In his second reelection campaign in 2009, Suozzi ran on his record of improving county finances. Challenger Ed Mangano, a GOP county legislator, bashed Suozzi for tax increases that stemmed from the first countywide assessment in a half-century, and a 2.5% tax on heating fuel. Suozzi lost by 386 votes.

In 2013, Mangano defeated Suozzi in a rematch. A federal jury convicted Mangano of corruption charges in 2019.

Suozzi served in the House from 2017 to 2022, declining to seek reelection in order to challenge Hochul in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

In 2021, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Suozzi’s alleged failure to properly report approximately 300 financial transactions. According to the federal STOCK Act, members of Congress must report stock trades within 45 days of the transaction.

Suozzi said the errors stemmed from a misunderstanding about what type of trades had to be reported immediately. The committee eventually cleared Suozzi and two other members of Congress, Republicans Pat Fallon and Chris Jacob, for such stock transactions.

Suozzi speaks to audiences about his concerns about divisions in the United States, wondering aloud why people can’t compromise. He throws his hands in the air frequently to express his dismay.

Suozzi rips Democrats and Republicans for failing to reach a bipartisan deal to secure the U.S. southern border.

“Make a deal! The people are sick of this,” he told a crowd at the Mid-Island Y JCC last month.

During the forum, Plainview resident Seth Meyer, 39, told Suozzi he felt uncomfortable voting for a Democrat because many in the party's progressive wing are opposed to Israel and its war effort against Hamas.

“As an American, [a] Long Island Jew, I have a lot of trouble reconciling the left side of the party,” Meyer said. “When I hear Democrats, I hear ‘Squad,’ ” Meyers said, referring to four female progressive House members of color.

Meyers cited a remark Suozzi made on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show in 2018: “Today, I am an honorary member of the Squad,” Suozzi said.

Suozzi called his comment a tongue-in-cheek response to a remark then-Republican President Donald Trump had made about “the Squad” on Twitter, now X. Referring to the congresswomen, Trump said: “Go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

“That's what they used to say to my father,” Suozzi said at the JCC forum. 

With Paul LaRocco

In the summer of 1991, Tom Suozzi was in a bind. He had volunteered to chair the City of Glen Cove's Democratic Party and needed a candidate to run for mayor. His pick had dropped out of the race.

During the city’s Feast of St. Rocco celebration, Suozzi walked into a church to pray and asked the priest for spiritual advice. “You’ve got to find someone to take the fall,” the priest said.

Suozzi decided to make the run himself, and that evening rushed to the post office to deliver a notarized document by the midnight deadline.

Suozzi, then 29, lost the race to Republican incumbent Donald DeRiggi. But the frenetic campaign “hooked” him on politics, Suozzi told Newsday recently, and two years later he ran again for mayor and defeated John Maccarone, a Republican city councilman.

Suozzi's political career in the more than three decades since has been marked by major highs and lows. He served two terms as Nassau County executive and six years representing the 3rd Congressional District — but also ran unsuccessful campaigns for New York governor against Eliot Spitzer and Kathy Hochul.

Now, he's the Democratic candidate in the widely watched special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District on Feb. 13. Early voting began Saturday.

Suozzi faces Republican nominee Mazi Melesa Pilip, a Nassau County legislator from Great Neck, in the contest to fill the seat after the expulsion of former GOP Rep. George Santos.

Mazi Pilip and Thomas Suozzi, the Republican and Democratic candidates for...

Mazi Pilip and Thomas Suozzi, the Republican and Democratic candidates for the 3rd Congressional District, attend an event at Plainview's Mid-Island Y JCC for the return of Omer Neutra, who is a hostage of Hamas, on Jan. 28. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Suozzi said after his loss in 2022 to Hochul in the Democratic primary for governor that he was surprised to get calls from Democrats urging him to run for his former seat in the House. He had spent the primary lobbing attacks at Hochul, the state's top Democrat, and had placed third in that race.

“This is the first time people are encouraging me to run for office,” Suozzi told Newsday at his office in Glen Cove. “Throughout most of my career, I was not encouraged to run for anything.”

In stump speeches in the special election campaign, Suozzi paints himself as a moderate bent on engineering compromises on difficult issues. In the House he served as vice chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Democratic and Republican House members who bill themselves as bipartisan dealmakers.

Across the 3rd District, which covers Nassau’s North Shore, dips south to communities such as Levittown and Massapequa and includes parts of northwestern Queens, Suozzi campaign signs with his slogan “Let’s Fix This!” and reading, “Tom Suozzi Stands With Israel,” dot major roadways.

He talks about crises he hopes to help solve with Republicans: climate change, the influx of migrants at the southern border and depression among teenagers addicted to social media.

“People, I believe, are hungering for public officials to actually hear what they’re saying,” Suozzi said. “They want us to fix the problems. They don’t want us all fighting with each other and saying you’re no good, and you’re no good, and attack, attack, attack.”

Republicans portray Suozzi as a member of the old guard who’s had his day.

In a speech to Nassau Republicans last month at The Lannin restaurant in East Meadow, Pilip said: “Suozzi [is] claiming he's going to go back to fix things. He has been there for six years. He broke everything. For Suozzi, [it’s] another job.” 

Suozzi was born in Glen Cove on Aug. 31, 1962, the youngest of five siblings.

His parents, Marguerite Holmes Suozzi and Joseph A. Suozzi, raised Tom, his sister and three other brothers in a home on Tulane Road.

His mother worked as an operating room nurse at Glen Cove Community Hospital, where Suozzi was born. She founded the Morgan Park Summer Music Festival in Glen Cove and served as its chairwoman for more than 50 years.

Tom Suozzi

Party: Democratic

Age: 61

Hometown: Glen Cove

Education: Graduate of Boston College and Fordham University School of Law. Chaminade High School graduate, class of 1980.

Career: Glen Cove Mayor, 1993-2001; Nassau County Eexecutive, 2002-09; U.S. House of Representatives, 2017-22; co-chairman of Actum LLP global consulting firm; of-counsel at Harris Beach law firm in Uniondale; attorney for Shearman & Sterling LLP; law clerk for Thomas Platt, a U.S. District judge in the Eastern District of New York; accountant for Arthur Andersen & Co.

Campaign finance*: Raised: $4.5 million. Spent: $2.3 million Cash on hand: $2.2 million. *through Jan. 24, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Photo credit: Howard Schnapp

His father immigrated to the United States in 1925 from Ruvo del Monte, a village in southern Italy.

Joseph Suozzi served in the U.S. Army in World War II as a navigator on a B-24, completing 35 missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

After the war, he graduated from Harvard Law School on the GI Bill. But Tom Suozzi remembers his father recalling widespread prejudice against Italian Americans, and how no law firm would hire him.

At 28, Joseph Suozzi became a City Court judge in Glen Cove, and later was elected mayor and as a state Supreme Court justice.

Tom Suozzi and Helene Wrotniak were engaged at a gazebo on the Morgan Park waterfront, and were married in 1993. They have three children — Michael, Joseph and Caroline.

Political and legislative record

As he campaigns in the 3rd District, Suozzi refers frequently to his long political career.

As Glen Cove mayor, he oversaw the revitalization of 214 acres of waterfront property around Hempstead Harbor, helping secure federal and state grants to clean up hazardous waste sites.

Suozzi points to closure of the city's incinerator as one of his biggest achievements. He arranged for a garbage carter to move into the incinerator building, collect the waste for $45-per-ton less than the prior carter and ship it elsewhere. The deal saved the city $900,000 annually, he said.

By 1995, the weight of the job had taken a significant toll on Suozzi's health.

On a Caribbean cruise with his family, he felt excruciating back pain, and ended up taking an air ambulance to a hospital in Miami for emergency surgery.

“I ended up being paralyzed from the waist down because I was working so hard — on being the mayor, raise taxes, fighting with everybody, building new buildings,” Suozzi recalled

“I still walk with a limp,” he said.

In 2001, Suozzi ran for Nassau County executive, defeating then-state Assemb. Thomas DiNapoli in the Democratic primary, and Republican financier Bruce Bent in the general election.

In the primary, Suozzi and his campaign chairman, Jay Jacobs, now the Nassau and state Democratic Party leader, portrayed Suozzi as an outsider and DiNapoli as part of the party establishment. DiNapoli had chaired the Nassau County Democratic Committee before resigning to run for county executive.

DiNapoli, the New York State comptroller, is backing Suozzi’s bid in the 3rd District, although he supported Hochul in the 2022 gubernatorial primary.

In an interview, DiNapoli called Suozzi a “relentless campaigner.”

Tom Suozzi, running in a Feb. 13 special election for...

Tom Suozzi, running in a Feb. 13 special election for New York's 3rd Congressional District, speaks to the Lakeville Estates Civic Association of New Hyde Park during a town hall meeting, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

But DiNapoli said that during the county executive primary, he had to “bristle” at Suozzi's portrayal of himself as an outsider.

“It’s hard to argue when you’re born into political royalty in Glen Cove,” DiNapoli said recently. “In the end, he actually was more establishment than me, although he was able to project that he wasn’t.”

Some argue Suozzi has run for office too many times.

“You can be around too long and you can look like you're always looking at the next office,” said former Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who retired in 2020 after 28 years in the House.

Suozzi also tries too hard to please, King said.

“He tries too much to smooth the difference to keep people happy,” King said. “He's always trying to show there’s a dispute and he can broker the difference.”

Suozzi was elected Nassau County executive as the county struggled with a severe budget crisis. Suozzi's first budget raised the county portion of the property tax by 19.4% in 2003 and cut the total county workforce by 15% by reducing funding for about 1,400 jobs.

In his second reelection campaign in 2009, Suozzi ran on his record of improving county finances. Challenger Ed Mangano, a GOP county legislator, bashed Suozzi for tax increases that stemmed from the first countywide assessment in a half-century, and a 2.5% tax on heating fuel. Suozzi lost by 386 votes.

In 2013, Mangano defeated Suozzi in a rematch. A federal jury convicted Mangano of corruption charges in 2019.

Suozzi served in the House from 2017 to 2022, declining to seek reelection in order to challenge Hochul in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

In 2021, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Suozzi’s alleged failure to properly report approximately 300 financial transactions. According to the federal STOCK Act, members of Congress must report stock trades within 45 days of the transaction.

Suozzi said the errors stemmed from a misunderstanding about what type of trades had to be reported immediately. The committee eventually cleared Suozzi and two other members of Congress, Republicans Pat Fallon and Chris Jacob, for such stock transactions.

On the campaign trail

Suozzi speaks to audiences about his concerns about divisions in the United States, wondering aloud why people can’t compromise. He throws his hands in the air frequently to express his dismay.

Suozzi rips Democrats and Republicans for failing to reach a bipartisan deal to secure the U.S. southern border.

“Make a deal! The people are sick of this,” he told a crowd at the Mid-Island Y JCC last month.

During the forum, Plainview resident Seth Meyer, 39, told Suozzi he felt uncomfortable voting for a Democrat because many in the party's progressive wing are opposed to Israel and its war effort against Hamas.

“As an American, [a] Long Island Jew, I have a lot of trouble reconciling the left side of the party,” Meyer said. “When I hear Democrats, I hear ‘Squad,’ ” Meyers said, referring to four female progressive House members of color.

Former congressman Tom Suozzi holds a news conference in Levittown on Dec. 9, 2023,...

Former congressman Tom Suozzi holds a news conference in Levittown on Dec. 9, 2023, his first since being named the Democratic nominee for the special election to fill expelled former Rep. George Santos' term in New York's 3rd Congressional District. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Meyers cited a remark Suozzi made on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show in 2018: “Today, I am an honorary member of the Squad,” Suozzi said.

Suozzi called his comment a tongue-in-cheek response to a remark then-Republican President Donald Trump had made about “the Squad” on Twitter, now X. Referring to the congresswomen, Trump said: “Go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

“That's what they used to say to my father,” Suozzi said at the JCC forum. 

With Paul LaRocco

Nassau gun permits … Massapequa motel closed … Boxing bus driver  Credit: Newsday

Nationwide cellphone outage ... Last LI Boston Market closes ... LI home prices ... What's up on Long Island

Nassau gun permits … Massapequa motel closed … Boxing bus driver  Credit: Newsday

Nationwide cellphone outage ... Last LI Boston Market closes ... LI home prices ... What's up on Long Island

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME