Tom Suozzi won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to replace U.S. Rep. Steve Israel in the Third Congressional District with 6,532 votes, or 35.33 percent, setting up a likely contest with Republican state Sen. Jack Martins in November.
Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, beat Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern by 2,463 votes. Former North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman finished just nine votes behind Stern. North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan came in fourth with 2,815 votes, followed by Jericho attorney Jonathan Clarke with 909.
Addressing supporters at Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen in Greenvale, Suozzi, 53, congratulated his opponents on their “positive” campaigns and pledged to bring unity to an increasingly polarized Congress.
“We’re not going to just run to get a job,” Suozzi said. “We’re running to do a job, to actually try and make the best country in the world even better than it is.”
Only about 10 percent of 186,389 registered Democrats cast ballots in the district stretching from Whitestone, Queens, to Kings Park in Suffolk County.
Suozzi carried the Nassau County portion by about 10 percentage points and the Queens portion by about 20 percentage points. Stern, the only Suffolk County candidate, won 54.55 percent of Suffolk’s 4,656 votes, about 33 percentage points ahead of Suozzi.
In a statement Tuesday night, Martins said he looks forward to facing Suozzi in the Nov. 8 general election.
“Our next representative needs be someone who will focus on the right priorities and can work in a bipartisan manner to deliver results,” said Martins, a former Mineola mayor who lives in Old Westbury. “That’s what I’ve done since my first day in public service. I look forward to discussing these issues over the coming months.”
In written statements Wednesday, Kaplan, Kaiman and Stern encouraged Democrats to unite behind Suozzi to ensure Israel’s seat stays in their party’s hands.
“While we did not prevail at the polls, the fight for these critical issues — and to make Congress work for New York’s middle class families again — goes on,” Stern said.
Israel announced in January that he would not seek a ninth term in Congress. Suozzi’s victory comes despite Israel’s endorsement of Stern, his fellow Suffolk County lawmaker and friend of 20 years.
Stern, of Dix Hills, recruited Israel’s former campaign staff and had Israel appear in one of his TV ads.
Suozzi made his ability to “get things done” the cornerstone of his campaign, saying it would set him apart as a bipartisan worker in Washington. His campaign consultant Kim Devlin said that message and his emphasis on in-person campaigning resonated with voters.
“It’s very evident that voters are looking for someone who will just simply do something,” Devlin said.
Suozzi said he will maintain his focus on issues in the general election campaign. He wants to hold “town hall” events like the 16 he held throughout the Third District in the primary season, but centered on specific issues rather than geographic areas.
“If it’s a positive campaign in the general election, we’re going to win this election because we’re going to win on the issues,” Suozzi said.
Suozzi aides said about 25 percent of Democrats turned out in his hometown of Glen Cove, indicating his roots there are still strong. Suozzi thanked the city Tuesday night for its support “through thick and thin.”
The five Democrats showed few policy differences, but each touted unique proposals and credentials.
Kaiman pledged to create a national version of Project Independence, the program he started as town supervisor to help senior citizens stay in their homes as they age. Kaplan said her unique life experience as an immigrant and as the only woman in the race equipped her to best represent the ethnically diverse district. Stern championed a federal version of his Suffolk County program to turn vacant homes into housing for veterans, which Israel introduced in the House last year.
Embracing an outsider identity, Clarke said campaign finance reform is essential to progressive change on other issues and eschewed donations from special-interest and third-party groups.
Despite taking a large loss Tuesday, Clarke said he was glad Suozzi won. “We both have the same goal of revitalizing the Democratic Party,” he said Wednesday.
On a phone call Tuesday night, Suozzi encouraged Clarke to run for office again and offered to help his future campaigns.