Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tom Suozzi to Challenge Eliot Spitzer?

Suozzi - ready to rumble?
Nassau exec expected to say he's interested in race against Spitzer for governor nomination


January 11, 2006

He has hinted at it, flirted with it, shrugged off the questions with wry smiles. This week, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi is trying out a new step in his delicate dance of running for governor: admitting that he is actually interested.

Suozzi is expected at the end of the week to announce with little fanfare that he is forming an exploratory committee for this year's governor's race, local Democratic sources said. The campaign would likely pit him in a primary against Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

While not a declaration of his candidacy, the announcement would be Suozzi's first formal public statement about running. For years, he has privately told associates that he has wanted to run for governor. Suozzi's campaign manager, Kim Devlin, said yesterday, "I'm not going to comment on speculation as to Tom's future plans regarding running for any office."

Friday's date, Jan. 13, has sentimental meaning for Suozzi because it is the birthday of his late older brother Joseph, who died in 2000 of a heart attack at age 46. Suozzi announced his first campaign for county executive on that date in 2001. Last year, gearing for re-election, Suozzi held a fundraiser on Jan. 13 headlined by singer Tony Bennett.
One has to wonder at the timing of this "exploration".

His home base party, Nassau County Democrats, is in turmoil. This has the smell test of the head rat deserting his ship before the deck dips below the waterline. On the other hand, the recent election proved that Nassau County voters are firmly supportive of Suozzi, which gives him an enormous leg up on fund raising over every other candidate, possibly including Spitzer, who has infuriated the monied class of this state by rooting out corruption.

Imagine. A politician cutting his nose to spite his face.

Too, the voters seem to be firmly behind the machine he has left in place. However, given the turmoil over the county leadership roles (two Dems are vying for the county legislature leadership, one with support of the Republicans precisely because he's not a Suozzi operative), and any residual anger over the fact that he just this past November won re-election to the County Executive seat (his term just began on Jan. 1, so 13 days later, his focus is elsewhere), may be enough to turn some of that goodwill against him.

In addition, his history suggests he has a combative nature, and whatever alliances he seems to be forming are purely of the "enemy of my enemy" sort. He's accepted money from John Whitehead, for example, who is head of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a leading anti-Spitzer figure, and a large contributor to the Republican party. He's made nice with the Nassau County Republicans with whom he's battled. In short, he's running a race that smacks a bit of desperation to be "anybody but Eliot".

One has to ask why, since he's likely to get spanked hard by Spitzer. I don't know if there are term limits in Nassau County (one suspects there are) but he could easily run again in 2010 should Spitzer fail (not likely), or perhaps run for a different statewide seat that might give him a platform to show his effectiveness across the Nassau border (my thinking is State Assembly, maybe even run for Congress this year against Peter King, a notorious right wing Republican who barely deserves to breathe the ocean air without prison bars on his window).

My suggestion, Tom? Don't do this. You have a bright future, but there are dark clouds on the horizon for you.