More than 150 supporters of former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi came to a “town hall” event in Glen Cove Wednesday night to back his run for Congress.
The turnout was encouraging for Suozzi as he weighs whether to run for the Democratic nomination for the North Shore congressional district U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) will leave next year, he said.
“It was pretty strong support, I thought,” Suozzi said in an interview. “I feel very gratified by that.”
The event was the first of several Suozzi, 53, plans to hold throughout the district stretching from Whitestone, Queens, across Nassau County to Kings Park to hear from voters and test the waters for a full campaign, he said. He must decide whether to run by March 8.
Suozzi told the crowd he was leaning toward a run, and said after the event the support Wednesday could push him further in that direction.
Suozzi, a Glen Cove native, said he’s trying to return to his roots as a public servant in his steps toward a congressional campaign after spending many years as a calculated politician.
He said his 2006 defeat in the Democratic gubernatorial primary against Eliot Spitzer led him to lose his sense of ambition as a problem-solver and collaborator that defined his tenure as mayor of Glen Cove from 1992 to 2000 and county executive from 2002 to 2009.
“I got beaten so badly, I stopped being myself,” he said.
While he’ll still be working with consultants and pollsters, Suozzi said, his messaging will be based on conversations with voters and “what it is I really feel.”
“I want to get back to being just more genuine, and just the things that I feel and just say them right out, instead of it all being carefully calculated,” Suozzi said.
Suozzi’s discussion with the crowd centered on support for America’s middle class and affordable college education, which he said campaign questionnaires have indicated are their primary concerns.
The purpose of the event wasn’t to make policy prescriptions, Suozzi said, but he did say he backs tax fairness policies and a higher dividend tax rate and would staunchly support the state of Israel.
Suozzi told the crowd he wants to work across the aisle in Washington to solve national and local problems, and redeem politics as a “noble profession” at a time when the public disfavors politicians.
“People say they’re sick of politicians and politics, but unless you know what you’re doing, you’re not going to be able to get anything done,” he said. “So I believe that I’ve learned about how to get things done.”
At the event were local elected officials including Village of Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy and Nassau Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove).
Suozzi said he’s been fundraising and forming relationships with Suffolk and Queens party leaders in the weeks since his Jan. 18 announcement of a potential congressional run.
Several people in the crowd Wednesday approached him and offered support for his campaign, he said.
Suozzi is one of five Democrats to create a congressional campaign committee for the seat. He will likely have to run a primary against other contenders.
Former North Hempstead Town Supervisor and Nassau Interim Finance Authority Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), lobbyist and attorney Brad Gerstman, and Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Huntington).