Last year, Tom Suozzi gave up his seat in the House of Representatives to pursue an unsuccessful run for governor. Now, less than a year after he left office, he has officially reentered the political arena.
Following a meeting with Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this week, in which the one-time political opponents “cleared the air” and discussed campaign strategy, New York Democrats have officially nominated Suozzi for the special election for his old seat, recently vacated by the scandal-ridden George Santos.
In a statement released shortly after the nomination, Suozzi said the “folks from Massapequa and Levittown to the north shore of Nassau, to the northeast Queens deserve better.”
“I will work day and night with both parties to deliver for the people, to make living here more affordable, safer and better,” he said. “I delivered for this district before, and I will do it again by putting you ahead of partisanship.”
In a joint statement, New York state and Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs and Queens Democratic Chair Gregory Meeks said Suozzi “has a proven record of fighting for his constituents, fighting to safeguard our suburban way of life here on Long Island and Queens and always advocating for sensible solutions to the real challenges affecting every day average Americans.”
“We look forward to working with the Suozzi Campaign, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to restore integrity, competence and a focus on the real needs of our larger community in the Third Congressional District,” the joint statement said.
Democrats believe that Suozzi, a longtime politician, is their best chance at winning back the seat. He served three terms in Congress, and beat Santos by more than 12 points in 2020. But some Democrats fault Suozzi for vacating the seat last year to pursue a run for governor in which he finished a distant third in the primary.
If it was political experience the Democrats were going for, Suozzi has plenty. He has run twice for the Democratic nomination for governor. His first run was in 2006, when, as the underdog, he lost in the primary to Eliot Spitzer by 64 points. At the time, he’d just won a second term as Nassau County executive, and won credit for turning around the county’s finances. Previously, he’d served as the mayor of Glen Cove, as his father had before him.
In 2022, Suozzi positioned himself to the right of Hochul in the Democratic primary, making public safety and bail reform a central theme of his campaign, much as Republicans did in the general election.
“Crime is my number one issue,” Suozzi said at the time.
While his run may have rankled some in the Democratic establishment, it only furthered his reputation as a moderate, a trait Democrats now hope will help them win back a critical swing district.
“I’m a common-sense Democrat. I’m tired of the far left, and I’m tired of the crazy right,” Suozzi once said.
Suozzi cultivated that brand during his three terms in Congress, emphasizing his ability to work across the aisle to solve problems. He focused much of his energy on repealing the cap on the state and local tax deduction, known as SALT.
A special election to fill Santos’ seat in Congress will take place on Feb. 13, 2024, Hochul announced Tuesday. Republicans will also nominate a candidate.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Savannah Viar said voters would “reject Suozzi just like they did in his failed bid for governor last year.”
“Tom Suozzi’s attempted comeback tour will be playing all the hits: self-enrichment, defunding the police, and raising taxes (just to name a few),” Viar said.