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Our Views: Congressional District 3 — Tom Suozzi for Congress

November 3, 2016

By: 

Editorial Staff
The Island Now

Both candidates in the 3rd Congressional District have lengthy track records in local government and separate visions for the federal government to consider when choosing between Tom Suozzi and Jack Martins.

We believe that Suozzi is the clear choice on both counts.

Suozzi, a Democrat, was elected Nassau County executive in 2001 amid a budget crisis that required a state bailout to avoid bankruptcy following years of mismanagement by county Republicans.

Over the next eight years, he brought the budget under control through reforms to county operations and tax increases that resulted in 13 bond upgrades.

He also displayed vision and leadership.

Suozzi was a leader in proposing what came to be known as urban-transit housing, now supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as a property-tax cap and controls on Medicaid spending.

He also was among the first to sound the alarm on a dysfunctional state government under the rallying cry of “Fix Albany.”

In doing so, he showed political courage in taking on vested interests including those in his own party. Then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver repaid Suozzi for his campaign for good government by disinviting him from the Democratic National Convention.

Suozzi also made his mistakes, taking his eye off the county at the end of the second term during a run for governor and the imposition of a fuel tax — a decision he now acknowledges was wrong.

But Suozzi appears to have learned from his mistakes. He have also not lost his vision or his willingness to be forceful and articulate advocate for his constituents.

He has diverged from Hillary Clinton, who has called for tax hikes on the wealthiest earners to pay for infrastructure and family leave, by saying he would oppose any federal income tax increases. He said the tax increase would fall disproportionately on district voters — at a time more money when the 3rd District is already a “net donor.”

We may not agree with him on taxes, but we give him credit for raising an important issue especially at a time when both voters and leaders in red states complain about federal spending while receiving a disproportionate share of government spending.

Suozzi has also emphasized the need for more job training, science, technology and math education and clean energy production to boost the economy. He said he sees energy independence as important to both the country’s economy and its national security. He supports increasing the minimum wage and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Martins has developed a reputation as a moderate voice in his party willing to work across party lines as a state senator since his election in 2011. As mayor of Mineola, he was also part of a dramatic turnaround that he shares with both is predecessor and the current mayor, Scott Strauss.

But a second Martins has emerged in his run for Congress.

That Martins began his campaign with an effort to keep a conservative Republican party opponent, Philip Pidot, off the ballot with months of court battles. He also refuses to say who paid the legal fees or his campaign strategist. Federal campaign filings appear to show that the legal fees came from the National Republican Campaign Committee.

Martins’ effort also included a call to move the general election to December at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers.

At one point, Martins acknowledged to Newsday a primary against Pidot would have pulled him to the right politically.

Martins had been notably evasive in whether or not he supports Donald Trump for president.

Before the Republican primaries were decided but with Trump clearly in the lead he said would accept the party’s choice, but did not mention his name.

When the Republican primary was finally decided, Martins said he planned to vote for Trump, but not endorse him.

In an interview with Blank Slate Media, Martins espoused several policies consistent with his moderate image such as recognizing man-made climate change and the need for encouraging renewable energy, opposition to a Muslim ban, opposition to Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border and the deportation of undocumented immigrants as well as finding a legal path — if not citizenship —for the 11 million people living in the country without documentation.

But Martins also espoused policies even outside normal Republican talking points.

While saying that the Affordable Care Act is collapsing and calling for its repeal, Martins claimed that the act had not increased the number and percentage of people covered by health insurance — a number widely accepted to accepted to be 20 million with 90 percent covered. He said he supported the imposition of tariff’s to keep businesses from going overseas, a potentially risky tactic that could raise costs for American consumers.

Martins also said he did not consider the West Bank in Israel to be occupied territory but part of Israel — a dangerous idea that flies in the face of 50 years of U.S. policy and international law, especially at a time that Russia is seeking to annex Crimea from the Ukraine.

But of greatest concern was his defense of Donald Trump for president.

When asked if he felt that Trump was qualified to be commander in chief, Martins said he was.

When asked about Trump calling women “pigs” and “slobs” and “dogs” and claiming that as a celebrity he had the right to kiss and touch a woman’s genitals at a time when Martins included his four daughters in campaign ads, Martins cited Bill Clinton’s infidelities and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in Benghazi.

Either Martins has changed or we didn’t really know him in the first place.

In either case, Tom Suozzi is the superior choice.