As the saying goes, “Nothing so focuses the mind as the prospect of being hanged.”
So, too, does the prospect of facing a pandemic that has killed nearly 110,000 people in this country and put more than 40 million out of work with Long Island among the hardest-hit places.
With that in mind, incumbent Tom Suozzi is now the clear choice for voters in the three-person Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, which stretches from Suffolk County across the North Shore of Nassau and into Queens.
Suozzi has the background as a four-term mayor of Glen Cove and two-term county executive in Nassau to understand the enormous challenges faced by local governments in Nassau, Queens and Suffolk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to fix them.
And his two terms in Congress have provided him with knowledge in the ways of Washington and relationships with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to offer his constituents the best chance of getting that help.
We have questioned Suozzi’s middle-of-the-road approach that includes his membership in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and a less aggressive approach than we believed is needed to confront President Trump’s many transgressions.
But during this pandemic, Suozzi’s moderate approach has paid dividends in gaining bipartisan support among House members for measures that would assist the state in its recovery.
This includes legislation written by Suozzi and approved by the House that would repeal the $10,000 cap on state and local taxes imposed by Republicans and the Trump administration in 2017 as part of the $2 trillion tax cut package.
The bill also includes seeing that funds in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, are distributed to the states based on the rate of infection.
Suozzi said he recruited every Democrat and Republican from New York and New Jersey to sign a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stating the need for a special fund to be distributed based on the rate of infection.
New York hospitals, he said, got $4 billion of that money.
Both legislative efforts to repeal the cap on state and local taxes and money for states and local municipalities have been blocked by McConnell in the Senate.
But we appreciate Suozzi’s strong advocacy for bringing New York its fair share of the federal money allocated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And his willingness to join Gov. Andrew Cuomo in taking on McConnell, who called aid to all 50 states a “blue-state bailout.”
Suozzi correctly pointed out that New York taxpayers have sent $125 billion more to the federal government in the past five years than they have gotten back in federal aid or help, while McConnell’s Kentucky was one of the biggest net takers during this time.
Has this resulted in more money for New York state and local governments? Not yet. That may not happen unless the Democrats regain the Senate and the White House. But we appreciate Suozzi fighting for what is right and hope that sooner rather than later that is how the money will flow.
Suozzi has succeeded in getting increased funding for the Long Island Sound cleanup, another bipartisan effort, as well as more money for the cleanup of the Bethpage plume of toxic chemicals.
He has also stayed in close touch with local constituents, working to assist them during the pandemic.
Suozzi is opposed by two Democrats – Melanie D’Arrigo and Michael Weinstock – neither of whom has held elective office.
D’Arrigo is a Port Washington resident and self-described progressive, who ran state Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso’s successful re-election campaign in 2018 and worked on the campaigns of Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte (D-Port Washington) and state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck).
She said she entered the campaign because she did not believe Suozzi spoke out at all against Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court or against Trump.
A former employee in the health care industry, D’Arrigo supports the Medicare for All plan promoted by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. (Suozzi said he supports the Green New Deal but does not specify if he backs Ocasio-Cortez’s version and free public college.)
D’Arrigo also said early in her campaign that she supported criminal justice reform, including the elimination of qualified immunity for police – a policy that has gained widespread support following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
We think the elimination of private insurance as called for by Sanders’ Medicare for All plan would be bad policy and even worse politics, possibly costing Democrats a House seat at a time the party cannot afford to lose one.
Weinstock is a Great Neck lawyer and former sex-crimes prosecutor who served as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Vigilant Fire Company.
He said his decision to run was sparked, in part, by Suozzi and other political leaders writing letters to a federal judge supporting former Town of North Hempstead Democratic Chairman Gerard Terry after he was convicted of failing to pay $1.4 million in federal and state taxes over 15 years.
Weinstock said he was running because he was a hard worker able to help people find common ground.
Both he and D’Arrigo seemed to lose focus during the campaign when D’Arrigo challenged Weinstock’s petitions during a high point in the pandemic and Weinstock responded by saying, “If she were a man, I would consider giving her a good old-fashioned throat punch.”
Even without these missteps, neither D’Arrigo nor Weinstock offers the experience and knowledge needed in Congress at this moment.
We strongly endorse Tom Suozzi for the 3rd District in the Democratic primary.