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The New York Democrat who is quitting Congress for a longshot governor bid

Just 6 percent of New York Democrats would back New York Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi for governor, according to the most recent polling, which tied him for last place in the primary race this year.

The chair of the state party is publicly encouraging him to drop his primary challenge against Gov. Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat who both the right and left called a political force even before she announced a $21 million war chest and a budget full of spending for all.



But Suozzi has a plan.

It requires roughly $15 million, a very specific coalition of support and for New York voters to hold a level of mistrust toward Hochul’s fledgling administration, according to an internal memo shared with WEBICNEWS that lays out the campaign’s next steps.

The three-term congressman from Long Island, who also ran a long-shot gubernatorial primary against then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in 2006, said he won’t be daunted by the perceived long odds.

And he brushes aside concerns that leaving his House seat could make it vulnerable for a GOP takeover in November.

“I have almost an obligation to try and stand up for the country, for the state, for the party,” he said in an interview. “I just see this very clearly, what needs to be done. I feel like this is what I should be doing. And it may be a very tough battle.”

 

Why Suozzi sees a lane for governor

Internal polling done by Suozzi shows that slight majorities of Democratic voters prefer “a candidate with executive experience over someone aligned with the left,” and “the party’s tilt to the left undermines the ability to win races” and “govern effectively.”

His goal now, he said, is talking to enough voters to introduce himself outside of Long Island and reframe the conversation that way.

Suozzi, 59, a fast-talking former Nassau County executive, knows that Hochul has now shored up most of the establishment Democratic support, big-dollar donors and many top unions.

He recognized as much during five regional tele-town halls that his campaign says have garnered more than 5,000 callers each. One on Jan. 24 for the Hudson Valley and Capital Region hit more than 8,200 registered Democrats, who had been invited through robocalls and texts the previous day.

He views the town hall events and barnstorming across the state as an effective way to reach voters ahead of the June primary, which traditionally has low turnout.

In the last two gubernatorial primaries easily won by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 24 percent of enrolled Democrats voted in 2018, while 10 percent did in 2014. So Suozzi sees a small margin at the polls that could help his chances.

“You can’t look at the polling in the beginning,” he said, when a caller asked about his actual chances against Hochul, who assumed the governor’s office in August after Cuomo resigned amid scandal.

“Hillary Clinton was supposed to be president two times; I supported her. She didn’t win.”

Suozzi has been doing this kind of local politicking a long time, and it shows.

On a recent town hall call, Suozzi took extra time comforting a woman who broke down in tears describing the difficulty her children have had getting mental health treatment.

He launched into phrases he’d learned in both Spanish and Mandarin after two separate callers highlighted their respective backgrounds. And he has a quick answer and personal anecdote for every concern, question and complaint about New York’s high taxes — a cornerstone of his campaign.

“I’m not going to get the other elected officials. I’ll get some, but not many,” he said on the call. “I’m not going to get all the big organizations. I get some; I’m not going to get that many. I need the people, and I believe that my message is resonating … and you’ve got to prove me right.”

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