Democratic candidate for Congress Tom Suozzi has received the endorsement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but the official announcement scheduled for Verdi’s Restaurant in Whitestone on Monday was canceled due to the death of Suozzi’s father, Joseph Suozzi, overnight on Sunday.
The news came as Suozzi enjoyed a lead against Republican state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), according to a Newsday/Sienna College poll, though internal polling conducted by Martins indicates a tighter race.
Suozzi and Martins are running to fill the seat to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville), who is retiring from Congress at the end of this year. The district includes parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties, Bay Terrace, Whitestone, Glen Oaks and Floral Park.
According to Newsday, Joseph Suozzi was born in Ruvo del Monte, Italy in 1921 and emigrated in 1925. He served as a navigator on a B-25 bomber over his native country in the European Theatre during World War II. He flew 30 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, Newsday reported. He served as the mayor of Glen Cove and two terms as a state Supreme Court justice. He was later appointed an appellate division justice.
At 95, he died of natural causes, the Suozzi family told Newsday.
Suozzi, the former Nassau County executive, also opened a campaign office in the Bay Terrace Shopping Center in Bayside Saturday, prior to his father’s death. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) were among the attendees.
“I’m working very hard to be the Queens candidate. I know that this is a very important part of the district for me politically as well as the fact that I just like it here,” Suozzi said. “My mother grew up in Queens also and this is a very important part for me. I want to win big in Queens.”
Suozzi also intended to participate in a town hall meeting for Queens constituents on senior issues at the Clearview Park Golf Course Monday evening, but the sudden death of Suozzi’s father the day before meant he was unable to attend. Former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a friend of Suozzi’s and a rival in the Democratic primary earlier this year, assumed the role of campaign surrogate at the meeting.
The chief issues at the town hall were the sustainability of Medicare and Social Security for seniors, with Kaiman stressing that Suozzi was interested in ideas-based solutions as opposed to ideological entrenchment. Kaiman asserted Suozzi would not consider privatization of such entitlements.
“The whole idea of privatizing Social Security does away with Social Security,” Kaiman said. “It goes against the idea of it.”
Attendees at the town hall described difficulties they had encountered with their health-care plans, particularly in the area of acquiring prescriptions through Medicare Plan D, which is designed to subsidize prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients. Attendees said the system needed substantive reform and pushed Suozzi to fight for it.
“He needs to have a few really good issues to focus on,” one town hall attendee said. “If he takes this issue, he can start a dialogue nationwide.”
The Newsday/Sienna College poll, released on Oct. 8, showed Suozzi leading Martins by 16 percentage points, 50 to 34 percent, with 15 percent undecided. Poll respondents listed jobs and the economy as a chief issue, according to Newsday. Martins’ campaign released polling conducted by Clout Research, which showed Martins within one percentage point of Suozzi.
“We’ve been confident all along that the more people know about Jack and his record of delivering for our families, the more likely they are to vote for him,” senior adviser E. O’Brien Murray said.
A statement from Suozzi’s campaign said the Martins camp was becoming desperate due to the state of the race.
“Public and internal polling clearly shows Tom with a double-digit lead in the race,” Suozzi campaign manager Mike Florio said. “After shopping around and paying four different firms for four different polls, it’s evident that Martins finally found one that tells him what he wants to hear so he can use it to bolster his anemic fund-raising.”
Martins has benefitted from several endorsements over the past weeks, including ones from the Nassau Corrections Officers Union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and former UN Ambassador John Bolton. However, the National Republican Congressional Committee recently pulled a funding commitment it made to the Martins campaign for television advertisements. NRCC spokesman Chris Pack said it did not indicate the organization did not believe Martins would win.
“We are extremely confident that Jack Martins will defeat Tom Suozzi in November,” he said. “Voters are sick of career politicians like Tom Suozzi, who voted to raise taxes on Long Island families by hundreds of millions of dollars while accepting a $65,000 taxpayer-funded pay raise.”