Voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional District have one of the most intriguing decisions to make in this year’s election cycle. The two candidates are very different when it comes to approach and temperament, even if they are similar on ideology and the issues. After a spirited debate among our editorial board, we decided that Democrat Tom Suozzi would be the better choice for the residents of the district, which stretches from Queens to Suffolk County.
To be blunt, Suozzi is a steamroller. He has made a career out of pushing issues uncomfortable for both Republicans and Democrats, so long as he felt he was right. Normally, this would not be an admirable quality in a candidate, but over the years Suozzi has deployed this character trait for good, with discipline and focus on issues that truly matter to voters. On property taxes, he was a thorn in the side of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to the point that Spitzer put him in charge of a commission on the issue. Lo and behold, a few years later there was a property tax cap in New York state. While we are not under the illusion that Suozzi deserves sole credit for the tax cap – there were many people advocating for it for years before it became a reality – but he did throw gas on that fire when it was merely simmering.
His opponent, Republican state Sen. Jack Martins, is an admirable legislator. Martins has strong convictions on labor issues, the environment and gun control that may put him at odds with the majority of his party, but are firmly in line with his constituents. He also has the experience of being an immigrant in the United States, and would bring a much-needed personal perspective to the ongoing debate over immigration reform. When it comes to working with Republicans and Democrats, Martins clearly has the approach of a consensus builder, who will reject the dogma of the House Freedom Caucus.
In the simplest terms, while Suozzi is a hammer, Martins is a scalpel.
It would be nice if you could send a thoughtful, reasonable politician like Martins to Congress and feel confident that he could be effective. But in Washington, D.C.’s highly polarized political climate, we would need to send about 50 Jack Martinses to the House in order to make any real difference. The more likely outcome is that if elected as a rare true centrist, he will be ostracized by both parties.
With Suozzi, voters will get a member of Congress who has a clear plan on how to combat the status quo and make the establishment feel uncomfortable. As he outlined to our editorial board in a questionnaire and interview, you need three things to be successful in Congress: a good idea (of which there are plenty in political discourse); guts to deal with people calling you a fool for proposing an idea that shakes things up; and finally, a plan to win.
For this iteration of Congress, Suozzi’s approach and skill set are a better fit. We encourage voters in the 3rd Congressional District to cast their ballots for him on Nov. 8.