Newsday endorses Thomas Suozzi in 3rd Congressional District special election
February 2, 2024
By: The Editorial Board
Timing is everything in politics. Sometimes, the right moment in history can make or break a candidate, as Thomas R. Suozzi knows only too well. He has enjoyed stunning victories and humbling losses.
His experiences in the realities of government, and the lessons learned from them, are what Suozzi uniquely offers as the Democratic candidate in the Feb. 13 special election for the Third Congressional District. The winner will serve the remaining 10 months in the term left open by the expulsion of disgraced Republican George Santos in December.
Instead of getting caught up in the endless partisan rancor fomented by the extremes in both parties, Suozzi repeatedly demonstrated in his three previous terms a collegial ability to reach across the aisle and work within the sharp divides of his party to find consensus. Suozzi’s strength is building relationships to get what is needed for his district. Even with the House currently under GOP control, Suozzi’s understanding of the chamber’s byzantine rules and power structure, along with his relentless focus on results, are essential in this period of polarization.
Suozzi, 61, is clear and specific about his priorities for the Third District. As more federal funding is being allotted for infrastructure, he wants to secure money to upgrade the Long Island Rail Road’s Oyster Bay line, improve roadways, and help local water districts eliminate “forever” chemicals in the water supply. With the money allotted to each House member, known as earmarks, Suozzi wants to start pilot projects in three school districts for early intervention for students who need mental health services.
MATCH OF MAN, MOMENT
“This is a very important moment in history,” Suozzi says about his reasons for seeking to return to the House of Representatives. “Trying to change the tone of conversation in our nation is a very important mission.” We agree.
Residents of the Third Congressional District have received a heavy dose of negative and false campaign ads about Suozzi and his Republican opponent, Nassau County Legis. Mazi Melesa Pilip, mostly sent by the national political action committees that plague our electoral process. Mailers that depict Suozzi as causing the border crisis are irresponsible. Please read our detailed take on Pilip’s candidacy here.
Suozzi is well known to Long Islanders, based on his long record of public service. In 2001, Suozzi became the first Democrat to win the Nassau County executive post in three decades. He served two terms. Previously, he’d served eight years as Glen Cove mayor.
In 2016, he won a seat in Congress and served three terms, leaving to run an unsuccessful 2022 gubernatorial primary against incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul, claiming she was too beholden to the progressive wing of the party. It wasn’t the best career move but it was undeniable proof of his centrist views and willingness to take on his own party.
CROSSING THE AISLE
Through the ups and downs, Suozzi consistently showed his inclination, particularly while in Congress, to work with both Republicans and Democrats to effect important changes on matters vital to the nation and, especially, Long Islanders. Suozzi helped convince the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman to agree to a 2020 cleanup agreement for the ‘Grumman Plume’ — the polluted site in Bethpage that has posed a severe threat to underground drinking water supplies. He also pushed federal officials to raze two decrepit buildings at the Northport VA Medical Center — when that facility was located in his district — while fighting to upgrade services for Long Island veterans seeking medical care there.
While in Congress, he worked constructively with then-Rep. Peter King on gun legislation, strengthening the nation’s defense, support for Israel, and a host of other issues. Together, King and Suozzi wrote a March 2019 newspaper opinion piece supporting a sensible bipartisan deal on immigration that would make the border more secure while providing a path to citizenship for many people already living illegally in the United States.
While GOP detractors seek to tag him as an out-of-touch liberal extremist, Suozzi is ready to help forge political compromises to alleviate the migrant crisis, even if it is to the chagrin of progressive members of his own party. That’s part of his appeal at this moment in history. It is imperative to secure the border; given his previous experience in Congress, Suozzi is much more likely to be part of a solution than his opponent.
If elected, Suozzi wants to renew his effort in Congress to rescind the $10,000 cap on federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes — a burden for Long Islanders with high property taxes. In 2021, Suozzi was a leader in the successful effort to get the House to vote to raise the SALT cap to $80,000 as part of the Build Back Better Act, but the Senate refused to go along with the House proposal. If given another chance in Congress, Suozzi says SALT’s repeal is a top priority.
Suozzi merits a return to Congress. The Third Congressional District can only benefit from his deep experience and institutional knowledge. The winner of this race will likely be sworn into office within days of the election. There is no opportunity to learn on the job.
Newsday endorses Suozzi.