Throughout his campaign for Nassau County Executive, Democrat Tom Suozzi told residents that "he could do it because he's done it," referring to his ability to turn around the financial fortunes of the City of Glen Cove as its mayor. Suozzi firmly believes he could do the same for Nassau County and now he will get his chance.
County Executive-elect Tom Suozzi's parents Marguerite and Judge Joseph Suozzi celebrate with their son, his wife Helene and Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs.
On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Suozzi easily defeated Republican Bruce Bent by a 203,901 to 104, 052 margin and will become the first Democrat county executive in three decades. He will succeed Tom Gulotta, who decided not to run for re-election. Nassau County's financial troubles paved the way for a change in power in the Legislature two years ago and now, this year, in the county's chief executive position.
For Suozzi, his journey began two years ago when he decided to run for the post. He overcame a major obstacle in September when he defeated New York State Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, the former chairman of the Nassau Democratic party.
Running against the former head of the party may have been a daunting task and many Democrats, if they had their choice, would have been celebrating a county executive win by DiNapoli. However, Suozzi refused to be dissuaded from his goal of being county executive and, after defeating DiNapoli, proceeded to gather support and momentum in his race against Bent.
On election night, Suozzi realized his dream of being county executive. At the Vanderbilt Hotel in Plainview, Suozzi celebrated with his supporters and fellow Nassau Democrats who also waited to see if their campaigns were successful.
While supporters waited with anticipation for election numbers to roll in from the polls with enthusiasm and confidence, a party-like atmosphere erupted further when new Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs announced Suozzi as the next county executive.
"Tom Suozzi is the definition of a leader," Jacobs said. "If anyone can do it, he can do it. He can do it because he's done it."
As Suozzi spoke for the first time as Nassau County executive-elect, the realization that the county had a new leader hit many residents, including Suozzi, who emphasized the teamwork that is going to be needed to get Nassau out of its doldrums. "We came here tonight as a team and we're going forward tonight as a team because we know it takes teamwork to make the dream work," he said. "Tonight is a great victory, but it's not just a victory for our party, it's a victory for the people of Nassau County."
Suozzi said he was humbled and gratified to have gained the trust of so many voters. He then re-emphasized the promise he made during his campaign "to break the back of machine politics in Nassau County."
Suozzi, who dedicated the victory to his late brother Joseph, may have made history with the win, but he acknowledged that it's time to go to work. "We have to restore the fiscal stability in Nassau County. We have to restore the trust in our elected officials and we have to restore the pride in our people," he said. "Over the next few months, I guarantee you I'm going to make some mistakes. I ask you to stick with me as we make the tough decisions, as we work together and fight the battles that need to be won."
As Suozzi recognized the difficulties that lie ahead, he asked for teamwork and the help of fellow residents, including his opponent Bent, who appeared gracious at Republican headquarters as he conceded defeat.
"I wish it didn't happen but it did," said Bent. "Hopefully, I have brought issues to this campaign that will be implemented in the coming administration. What I have offered to Mr. Suozzi is my expertise and my credentials. I am still a Nassau County resident. It is my hope I will be able to serve the people of Nassau."
With Suozzi's victory, the Democrats maintaining their majority in the legislature and Democrat Howard Weitzman defeating Republican Fred Parola in the race for county comptroller, the responsibility to solve the county's problems falls on their shoulders. They realize their task is difficult, but believe brighter days lie ahead. Said Jacobs, "The picture is a gloomy one and the challenge is a great one, but tonight Nassau has elected a new team, a Democratic team."
All of the Nassau County Legislators retained their seats, meaning the Democrats still hold a 10-9 majority. For the first time, the county will operate with a Democratic legislature, county executive and county comptroller.
Although majority leader Judy Jacobs, who won convincingly by a 13,505 to 4,108 margin, originally supported DiNapoli for county executive, she was ecstatic at the way things turned out for Suozzi and the Legislature. "It really feels like a vote of confidence. We've worked very hard for two years and we had no partner. We didn't have a county executive willing to join with us," Jacobs said. "Now, it's as if the people of Nassau County understood our message."
Jacobs said she is looking forward to working with fellow Democrat Suozzi, who she said was a wonderful candidate. "To have a county executive with a vision and a vitality and willingness to have focus to know what has to be done is a battle. Now, we're going to go for it," she said.
There has been some speculation, however, that because Jacobs supported DiNapoli before the September primary, the Legislature would have a new presiding officer, someone who supported Suozzi during the primary.
One name that has been mentioned is Legislator Michael Zapson of Long Beach, who also won convincingly. "I think the legislators will get together and talk about it to determine who the presiding officer will be," Zapson said.
However, he did acknowledge that the position is appealing. "If it's available, I would love to do it," Zapson said.
Jacobs, however, has not had the opportunity to serve as the presiding officer with a Democratic county executive and hopes to remain in the position. "I would love to stay on as presiding officer. We've been through two very tough years and I'd like nothing better than to lead this delegation through the next two," she said.
Despite his efforts to distance himself from County Executive Tom Gulotta, County Comptroller Fred Parola was not re-elected as Democrat Howard Weitzman defeated him by a 153,278 to 142, 726 margin.
The victory for Weitzman means the county will have a change in its fiscal oversight. Weitzman had been critical of Parola for signing off on some of the contracts that proved damaging to the county.
Weitzman's win means a Democratic comptroller to go along with a Democratic county executive and legislative majority.
Republican Denis Dillon was re-elected as Nassau County District Attorney as he defeated Democratic challenger Charles Ferzola by a 167,087 to 133,212 margin.
Nassau Republican chairman Joe Mondello called Dillon "the finest law enforcement chief that this county has ever had."
Republican Karen Murphy was re-elected as Nassau County Clerk. She defeated Democratic challenger Sharon Commissiong by a 149,811 to 143,278 margin.
In the at-large election for two North Hempstead town council seats, Republican Councilman James O'Connor of Westbury, who was seeking a second term, was not re-elected. Democrats Fred Pollack and Wayne Wink, both of Port Washington, were voted into office, to take the seats of O'Connor and Ferrara, the councilman who ran for supervisor. When O'Connor was elected to the town council in 1997, he became the second Republican, alongside Ferrara, on the Democratic-majority board. Last week's election brings the Democrat to Republican ratio on the town board, which includes four council members and the supervisor, from 3 to 2, to 5 to 0.
The North Hempstead Town Council candidates received the following number of votes: James O'Connor (Republican): 21,840; Fred Pollack (Democrat): 29,028; Jerome Galluscio (Republican): 19,507; Wayne Wink (Democrat): 29,079.
Also in the Town of North Hempstead, Town Clerk Michelle Schimel, a Democrat, was re-elected, defeating Republican Catherine Rosso by a tally of 30,500 to 19,703.