By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — The race for New York’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination got a little more crowded Monday as U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi announced his bid for next year’s race.
The Long Island congressman becomes the fourth Democrat to join the field. In an introductory video and a press conference with reporters, Rep. Suozzi made it clear he’s running a centrist campaign.
“I’m about getting things done,” he told reporters. “I’m a commonsense Democrat. So that’s the lane that I’m running in.”
The 59-year-old has been in Washington since 2017. Before that, he served as mayor of Glen Cove, where he continues to live, from 1994-2001 and then as Nassau County executive from 2002-2009.
He previously ran for governor in 2006, losing in the Democratic primary to Eliot Spitzer. Rep. Suozzi then lost the Nassau County executive seat to Republican Ed Mangano in 2009 and again four years later.
Rep. Suozzi joins current Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Attorney General Letitia James, and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams as candidates for the Democratic nomination. Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also said he’s considering the race.
Gov. Hochul succeeded former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in August amid numerous investigations into his administration.
On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, another Long Island representative, is considered the presumptive nominee by state party leaders. Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and former Trump Administration official Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, are also running on the GOP side.
In his introductory video, Rep. Suozzi said his prior work as mayor, county executive and congressman have prepared him for this run. He touted his work as mayor in helping undocumented workers find jobs, get paid and receive training. He also pointed to his leadership in Nassau County to lower the county’s crime rate and clean up environmental hazards.
The video said that if he was governor, he would fight to cut New York’s “sky high” property and income taxes.
Regarding bail reforms, Rep. Suozzi told reporters he wants to give judges the power of discretion when it comes to making sure those charged with violent crimes are kept off the street. On environmental issues, he said that any talk of a carbon tax should happen in Washington and not Albany.
He admitted he has no problem with raising taxes, noting his support in Congress of raising the top rate on the corporate tax. However, such hikes can’t be done to the detriment of the state.
“We want to be a leader for the rest of the country to follow, but we also have to make New York a place that people want to live,” Rep. Suozzi said. “And we’ve tried to do this in ways that we’ve just kept on raising the taxes over the years and made it less attractive (to live in New York).”
It’s uncertain what impact Rep. Suozzi’s entry will have on the June Democratic primary. A Siena College Research Institute poll released in mid-October showed a sample of New York registered voters gave Gov. Hochul a double-digit lead over Ms. James, Mr. Williams, Mr. de Blasio and even Mr. Cuomo. The Long Island congressman was not listed as a candidate.
In a five-candidate race, the Siena poll showed 23% did not know who they would back, and 2% said they wanted someone other than the five candidates listed.
It would appear that Rep. Suozzi is trying to appeal to upstate Democrats as well as his neighbors in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, hoping he could secure enough of those moderate Democrats while Gov. Hochul, Ms. James and Mr. Williams would splinter the progressive vote.
“I have a clear rationale to distinguish myself from the other candidates,” he said. “And so I feel like this whole left-right extremist thing in our country is killing our country, and it’s killing our state.”
Rep. Suozzi’s candidacy for governor also means one less incumbent Democrat is running for re-election in Congress next year.
Democrats currently hold a slim 221-213 majority in the House, with one vacancy. However, more than a dozen Democrats have announced plans to retire rather than seek re-election next year. Several others, like Rep. Suozzi, have pivoted to other races.
Rep. Suozzi said he spoke with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about his intentions. He added that Rep. Pelosi wished him well in the race. He also admitted that, depending on how the district is redrawn based on the 2020 Census, it would be a “50-50” race to replace him.