There aren’t many political differences between Congressional candidate Tom Suozzi and his four rivals in the Democratic primary, so the former Nassau County executive highlights the one thing he believes separates him from the pack: his career of public service.
“The one thing that I’m trying to distinguish myself on is that I have a proven record of standing up to powerful forces and changing the status quo,” Suozzi said in an interview with QNS at our Bayside office on May 13. “I’ve been successful in getting things done for the people I serve.”
Suozzi served eight years as mayor of Glen Cove before being elected Nassau County executive in 2001. As county executive, he made political waves with his “Fix Albany” campaign in 2003, in which he worked to bounce an incumbent Democratic Assembly member and a Republican state senator out of office in order to send a message to Albany’s leaders that Nassau County needed greater attention.
The effort rankled some political rivals, but it helped elevate Suozzi’s status; he would later become president of the New York State County Executives Association and led an effort to convince Albany lawmakers to adopt a Medicaid/Medicare reform program that saved the state, city and county governments millions of dollars.
Suozzi acknowledged that his efforts to challenge the establishment weren’t always so successful, specifically his loss in the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary to then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who went on to become governor. But Spitzer and Suozzi closed ranks following the election, and the new governor appointed Suozzi as chair of a commission that led to the creation of a property tax cap.
“Everybody says the same thing: ‘Who’s got the proven ability to take on these fights and get it done?’ I would argue that I do,” Suozzi told QNS.
One of the big issues he would tackle is aircraft noise, a key issue of the man he’s working to replace, the outgoing Congressman Steve Israel. Suozzi said he would reach out to a litany of groups in an effort to reduce noise from helicopters and airplanes flying over eastern Queens.
“I would go to the air traffic controllers and talk to them and get their perspective,” he said. “I would talk to the FAA and the airlines, and talk to the constituents … I would try and find a Republican somewhere else in the country that has the same problem here locally, and build a coalition of people to come up with an agenda that addresses the problems.”
Suozzi also said he would work to improve public transportation options in northeast Queens, including the “Freedom Ticket,” which would equalize the fare for rides between MTA New York City Transit and Long Island Rail Road stops within Queens.
Thus far, Suozzi has worked hard to acclimate himself with Queens voters, earning the support of local lawmakers including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Paul Vallone. He also has two town halls in the Queens portion of the district on May 23 and 25.
The northeast Queens neighborhoods of Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Douglaston, Little Neck, Glen Oaks and North Shore Towers make up only a sliver of the population and geography of New York’s Third Congressional District, which includes much of northern Nassau and northwestern Suffolk counties. But Suozzi, whose mother hails from Queens, indicated he would maintain close ties with his constituents in the “World’s Borough” if elected to Congress.
To that end, Suozzi pledged to open a district office in Queens on Northern Boulevard. The roadway, which runs from Long Island City to eastern Suffolk County, cuts through the heart of the district, he noted.
“I’ve worked hard to understand the issues” in Queens, he said. “I decided from a strategic point of view and to be as effective a congressman as possible to dedicate my time and resources to Queens.”