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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Dems’ County Executive Primary Takes Shape

The early summer is one of the busiest times of the year for Nassau’s political activists because this is when they go door-to-door, obtaining the signatures of their party’s registered voters to secure a ballot spot for its endorsed candidates.

Adam Haber, the Roslyn school board member vying with former Nassau County executive Thomas Suozzi for the Democratic Party’s 2013 county executive nomination, will file at least 2,000 signatures, the minimum needed, with the board of elections in July. In fact, the Haber campaign will likely submit many more signatures than that. Nassau’s Democratic Party, having given Suozzi its official nod at its May convention, will also bring an impressive number of signed petitions on Suozzi’s behalf to the board of elections.

Both the Haber and the Suozzi campaigns will then pore through their opponent’s petitions, checking to see if enough mistakes were made to invalidate enough signatures to throw their rival off the Tuesday, Sept. 10 primary ballot. That process will take place out of public view, unless someone files a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the other campaign’s petitions.

The county’s registered Democrats, and they are the only ones who can vote in September’s Democratic county executive primary, have seen some of the attack lines Suozzi and Haber will use against one another in the summer.

The Working Families Party (WFP), which has endorsed Suozzi, ran a radio advertisement which was in heavy rotation on all-news stations this month portraying Haber as a rootless, political opportunist, citing his various non-Nassau residential addresses dating back decades, and his decision in 2000 to become a registered Democrat. Haber’s deep, dark past as a registered Republican explained why Haber used the “Republican playbook” when criticizing a client Suozzi’s law firm chose to represent while Suozzi was an attorney in private practice, according to the WFP radio spot.

The WFP’s radio advertisement came in response to Haber’s radio, web and robo-call assault on Suozzi’s legal work on behalf of the New York Catering Association, which has also contributed to Suozzi’s 2013 county executive campaign. But if you read through the content posted at the Haber-touted www.tomthetiptaker.com, it is unclear whether the catering hall owners are pocketing gratuities intended for their employees. My sense after reading the website is that the caterers are padding their bills with service fees which should be explained more clearly to their customers. Still, Haber’s move was a clever one because the WFP has given Suozzi its support while assailing Republicans for backing the Catering Association’s stance on this issue, and taking campaign contributions from them, too.

Haber is surely finding it tougher than Suozzi to navigate the petition-gathering process because Suozzi has access to the county’s Democratic committee members, who do this every year for their party’s officially designated candidates. Should Haber make it onto the primary ballot, he’ll then have to find volunteers who come from outside the party’s organization to make phone calls, stuff envelopes and distribute campaign literature. Suozzi, a two-term county executive (2002-2008), can have the party’s committee members handle the less than glamorous tasks which need to be done in a county-wide race.

Haber’s willingness to finance generously his own campaign, however, is what will keep Haber’s name, and messages, in the media for the next few months. Sometime soon, Suozzi will start making his case, via direct-mail and on the airwaves, for why Nassau’s Democrats should again give him the county executive nomination, something he had in 2001, 2005, and 2009.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net