Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi savored his winning campaign for retiring Rep. Steve Israel’s 3rd District seat after three straight losses in past races.
Suozzi lost a 2006 gubernatorial primary, his 2009 re-election bid for county executive and a rematch with County Executive Edward Mangano four years later.
“Early on, a lot of people didn’t think I had a shot” at the congressional seat, said Suozzi Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “It’s not easy to hear insiders say, ‘He’s damaged goods.’ ”
Suozzi, 54, said he believes he beat state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) Tuesday because he kept the campaign local, holding 23 town hall meetings, and talked about his personal story of taking on big policy fights to make change, which turned out to coincide with the mood of the country.
“There was a lot of pressure from Washington experts,” said Suozzi. But “we never made it about [Donald] Trump or Hillary [Clinton] or the presidential race . . . People are just discouraged that things aren’t getting done.”
Suozzi said he is willing to work with Trump, the Republican president-elect. Suozzi said he was “anxious to hear his agenda,” and will be “open minded” about his proposals. But he said “I will not in any way be supportive of discriminatory shenanigans. It’s the one place I draw the line.”
Suozzi, who beat Martins by 52 percent to 48 percent, said he expects to go to Washington next week for orientation, and early on will focus on local issues such as funding for the Northport VA Medical Center and aircraft noise.
Israel predicted Suozzi will do well as a legislator.
“He’s a problems solver . . . and passionate about solutions and not partisan wrangling,” he said.
Backers of Martins argued that he did little damage to his political prospects even though he will have to leave office in January.
Joseph Mondello, Nassau GOP chairman, said Martins “acquitted himself well” in the heavily Democratic 3rd District, boosting his name recognition.
“If he wants to run for office, he’ll have no difficulty from me,” said Mondello. “He’s a good candidate who works very hard. That’s what you have to look at.”
While Mondello declined to say where Martins might run, his loss comes only weeks after Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto were indicted on federal corruption charges. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Martins declined to discuss any future race, saying he and his wife would take a few days off.
“I think we ran a good race. We came up a little short but I came out the other side with my head up,” said Martins, noting that he was able to narrow a wide gap with Suozzi. “I’ll think about the next step when we get back.”
Some Republicans said Martins hurt himself by distancing himself from Trump. Others said his prolonged legal battle to block a GOP primary by challenger Philip Pidot kept him from increasing his visibility and momentum going into the general election.
Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman, argued that Martins couldn’t overcome Suozzi’s high profile.
But Jacobs said Martins remains a potent GOP contender.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Jack Martins,” Jacobs said. “If he decided to move to Alaska that would OK by me, too.”