Former Glen Cove Mayor and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi held a town hall meeting in Glen Cove last week to gauge support for a potential run for Congress, and from the large turnout at the Polish National Hall, it seems as if local voters are giving him the green light. Approximately 150 residents showed up on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 10, to hear Suozzi’s reasons for considering replacing the seat of Representative Steve Israel of the 3rd Congressional District, who announced his retirement last month. Before getting into the topics for discussion, Suozzi asked for a show of hands of supporters, dissenters and those who had specific issues to discuss; the vast majority indicated they would support him.
“I’m really very happy to see so many people here tonight,” said Suozzi. “It’s overwhelming, quite frankly. This will hopefully be the first of several town hall meetings around the 3rd Congressional District that Steve Israel is leaving.”
Last month, Suozzi filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and stated at the meeting that he wouldn’t be considering this run if not for the surprise retirement of Israel and acknowledged the excellent work he has done while in Congress; while he was a leader on national issues, he always looked out for the best interests of his constituents.
“It’s important that we get someone in this seat who is going to continue his good work,” said Suozzi.
Suozzi said he had decided to form a committee and hold discussions to talk to people in the district, listen to what they have to say, figure out if he could raise enough money and then discuss with his wife and children whether or not it is worth pursuing. He needs to a make a decision by March 8.
He said that after being in the private sector and out of public office for six years, he has a new perspective. He noted that people are more candid with him now and he shares the frustrations of many others by the lack of progress and cooperation in Washington and the general mistrust in government and politicians.
“One thing that is clear to me is that everybody is sick of politics and they are sick of politicians,” said Suozzi. “I still genuinely believe that politics can be a noble profession and that government can do good things to actually solve problems to try and make peoples’ lives better.”
He added: “Unless you know what you’re doing, you’re not going to be able to get anything done.”
Prior to the meeting, his campaign sent out a questionnaire to residents asking about the issues important to people in the community, which he then addressed one by one, giving people a chance to ask questions about his thoughts on the subjects and what he would do. Among the issues raised were income inequality, the high cost of college education, and the struggles of middle class families and seniors.
“We have to figure out how to deal with the national debt problem in a responsible way while we still address problems like education,” said Suozzi. “I am not here tonight to say I have answers; I am here to listen to you and figure out how to get capable people involved in helping to create policy prescriptions that I can make.”
An audience member raised the point of Israel’s reason for leaving office, which is that he is tired of the fact that so much of the job revolved around campaign financing.
“Most politicians agree, the biggest issue in politics is campaign finance. The thing I am most scared of in this race, is I could win the primary, have great policy prescriptions, then a Super PAC will come in and spend millions and hammer me in the election,” said Suozzi. “Campaign finance is a rigged system.”
Someone asked about the waterfront and other developments in Glen Cove. The waterfront cleanup plan was laid out when Suozzi was mayor.
“Every developer wanted to build residential, and I didn’t want to do that,” Suozzi said.
He said he thought that commercial development would bring in more money to the residents of Glen Cove, but the mayors following him have all gone with a residential developer.
“I am not going to make it a campaign issue, but I would love to see the waterfront developed and developed in a way that we all saw as a benefit to people in the entire region,” said Suozzi. “I think that I could play a role in bringing people together in some way. I would be much more effective at doing it if I was a United States congressman.”