Campaign 2016: Northeast Queens Dems vote Suozzi for Congressional seat; incumbents dominate

Former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (third from left) with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Paul Vallone and other Queens supporters who helped him win Tuesday's Congressional primary.
Photo courtesy of Tom Suozzi campaign

He had the most name recognition in the race — and in the end, he got the most votes.

Former Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi defeated four rivals to win the Democratic nomination for outgoing Congressman Steve Israel’s Third District seat covering northeast Queens, northern Nassau and northwestern Suffolk counties.

With all precincts reporting, Suozzi garnered 35.5 percent of the vote (6,532) over Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (22.1 percent, 4,069 votes), former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman (22.1 percent, 4,060), North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (15.3 percent, 2,815) and attorney Jonathan Charles Clarke (4.5 percent, 909 votes). Turnout was extremely light, as just 18,385 votes were cast among the five candidates, accounting for about 10 percent of the registered Democrats living in the Third District.

“This victory is only possible because of the tremendous support I received in Queens,” Suozzi said in a conference call with Queens reporters on Wednesday morning. “I’m very grateful to the voters of Queens who came out and the elected officials that supported me from the very beginning.”

For weeks, the field of Long Island-based politicians worked throughout the northeast Queens portion of the district — which includes Whitestone, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Glen Oaks and North Shore Towers — to win over voters. In addition to being the most recognizable name among Queens voters, Suozzi also won over many local elected officials including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Paul Vallone.

“I think the key to my success in Queens was spending a lot of time in Queens,” said Suozzi, who noted that he met voters directly through two town hall meetings he held in the Queens portion of the Third District. Suozzi said he intends to continue building up his support among all Queens voters in the lead up to the general election.

Those efforts paid off for Suozzi, who vowed to open a Queens district office if elected to Congress. He took 1,511 (42.5 percent) of the 3,555 Queens votes cast in the election, according to the New York City Board of Elections. Kaiman was second in Queens (804 votes, 22.6 percent), followed in order by Kaplan (751, 21.1 percent), Stern (323, 9 percent) and Clarke (158, 4.4 percent).

“Queens is the smallest part of the district, but it is very important to me, and I think I would not have won this race without the success I had here,” Suozzi said. “I will never forget that.”

Suozzi will face the presumptive Republican nominee, state Senator Jack Martins, in the November general election for the right to succeed Israel in Congress. Martins is currently in a legal battle with a challenger, Philip Pidot, who was initially thrown off the scheduled Republican primary ballot but later reinstated through a court ruling. While a Republican primary for the seat was not held Tuesday, Pidot is seeking a court order to schedule a primary as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, several incumbent Democratic Members of Congress representing parts of Queens easily turned aside primary challengers on Tuesday.

Congressman Gregory Meeks of the Fifth District (southeast Queens and the Rockaways) defeated businessman Ali Mirza; Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of the Seventh District (Woodhaven, Glendale, Ridgewood, north Brooklyn and south Manhattan) bested businessman Yungman Lee and attorney Jeff Kurzon; and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of the 12th District (Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth) bested challenger Peter Lindner.

The winners advance to the Nov. 8 general election, but voters will have one more important chance to vote before then: the Sept. 13 primaries for statewide offices. Click here for voter registration information.