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Thomas Suozzi Tries out ‘Fix Washington’ Label

July 31, 2016

By: 

Rick Brand
Newsday

Thomas Suozzi, who as Nassau county executive launched a campaign to “Fix Albany,” is looking to use a similar label in his bid for Congress.

On Tuesday, Suozzi will file petitions with state election officials in Albany for an independent campaign ballot line called “Fix Washington.” To qualify for the extra ballot line, Suozzi volunteers in sweltering heat over the past two weeks will have had to collect a minimum of 3,500 valid signatures — more than twice the 1,250 signatures he needed to get on the ballot as a Democrat.

Suozzi, who won a five-way Democratic primary in the Third District on June 28, is playing catch-up because his Republican foe, state Sen. Jack Martins, already has two extra ballot lines from the Conservative Party and the Reform Party, a line that began as the single-issue Stop Common Core Party before its founding Republican renamed it.

While a Democrat such as Suozzi normally might seek backing from the pro-labor Working Families Party and the Women’s Equality Party, created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2014, neither circulated petitions because of the uncertain primary. Martins also failed to get enough signatures for the Independence Party nomination.

Chris Pack, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, dismissed Suozzi’s new effort. “Tom Suozzi can create as many lines as he wants,” Pack said. “It doesn’t change the fact that he raised property taxes by millions of dollars and accepted a $65,000 a year raise” as Nassau County executive.

Suozzi raised property taxes by 19.4 percent in 2003, saying he had inherited a deficit from Republicans, and by 3.9 percent in 2008 during the Wall Street meltdown.

But Suozzi said voters are tired of partisan sniping by surrogates, and called the attack on his record “hypocritical” because Martins raised property taxes by 31 percent as Mineola mayor and increased his salary by 61 percent.

Suozzi said such attacks have nothing to do with serious issues like immigration, gun violence, climate change and campaign finance reform that have long been stalled in Washington.

“I’m running to fix a system which is broken, which I’ve done my whole career,” Suozzi said. “I’m willing to negotiate and compromise, but I’ll also stand up to my own leadership, which Jack has never done.”

The downside to Suozzi’s ballot line is that it will be hard to find near the bottom of the ballot.

However, some political experts say the “Fix Washington” line would give Suozzi a billboard right on the ballot sheet with a message aimed at voters frustrated with Beltway gridlock.

“Right now, there isn’t an issue that you could get people to agree with more than Washington needs to be fixed,” said Michael Dawidziak, a political consultant who works mainly for Republicans. He said such ballot lines opposing the Shoreham nuclear plant and seeking to stop the Common Core curriculum have had an impact in the past.

Suozzi backers say the line also recalls Suozzi’s record on “Fix Albany,” a campaign that battled corruption in the state capital and called for the property tax cap — efforts that later bore fruit.

“He has a history of making legislative leaders and the governor angry,” said Patrick Halpin, a former Democratic Suffolk County executive. “But he tapped a growing anger with Albany before politicians realized a lot of people agreed with him.”

“The line should be called ‘Taxing Tom’ because that’s how voters remember him and why he was overwhelmingly rejected by those voters,” said E. O’Brien Murray, Martins’ spokesman.

Kim Devlin, Suozzi’s senior campaign adviser, said, “Cheap shots like calling Tom names does not change the fact that Jack Martins raised taxes and his own salary. It’s the politics of distraction that voters won’t tolerate.”