In April 2015, Bernie Sanders held a small news conference on the grounds of the Capitol to announce his candidacy for president. It was a campaign that inspired Josh Sauberman, a Democrat who kicked off his own campaign challenging U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi with a modest event on Tuesday.
“Bernie did a great job … getting a dialogue started on what are society’s ills,” he said during his event at Stillwell Field, across the street from his alma mater, Syosset High School.
It is Sauberman’s first run for elected office and another curve in a life full of twists and turns.
He was raised in Bayside and graduated from Syosset in 2000. From there he went to Fordham, where he studied political science and psychology and began interning at the United Nations. After graduating in 2004 he was hired to work at the UN as a policy analyst.
Sauberman left that job in 2007 to take over the family’s insurance brokerage firm after his father became ill. Two years into that job, Sauberman was stricken with metastatic prostate cancer. His health insurance provider determined that it was a pre-existing condition.
“I was denied coverage by my insurer, so I had to fund it myself,” he said.
It was the struggle to save the family business and his battle with cancer that inspired him to fight for social justice. In the years since Sauberman has helped raise funds for several documentaries such as “Inequality for All” (2013) and “Saving Capitalism” (2017).
Sauberman, who lives in Syosset, said he voted for Suozzi in 2016 but expressed disappointment in the Glen Cove Democrat’s work so far.
“He had an opportunity in 2017 to support a single payer system … the Medicare for All Act, which was introduced in the House,” he said. “But rather than co-sponsor it, he’s been going around the district saying he agrees with it on an academic basis but he’s not going to push for it. Why?… because Big Pharma is bankrolling Tom Suozzi to not take a vote on a bill that’s in the best interest of residents in his district.”
He was also critical of Suozzi’s time as county executive, saying he was partly responsible for Nassau’s dysfunctional tax assessment system.
In addition to supporting health care for all, Sauberman said he would invest more in public schools and universities, make housing more affordable and improve transit. He supports the construction of the Hyperloop, a high-speed vacuum-tube train that would connect New York to Boston and Washington, D.C.
As for how he would pay for such projects, Sauberman said he would make sure everyone pays their fair share.
“Whether it’s a company or a wealthy person or a not so wealthy person, everyone needs to have some sort of balance,” he said. “There’s no reason that I’m paying $20,000 a year on a home that doesn’t even sit on an acre of land, whereas someone up in Roslyn is paying the same amount for more than an acre. There needs to be some fairness.”
He readily admits that he faces an uphill climb in becoming as well known in the 3rd Congressional District as Souzzi, who was already known as the former mayor of Glen Cove and former Nassau County executive before running for Congress in 2016. But Sauberman has promised a blitz of media events and town hall events — similar to the ones Suozzi held and Sauberman often attended — to raise his profile before the primary in June.
“I will invite people from the community to come out and hear what I have to say,” he said. “They’ll get to see if they like my agenda, and if they do, they’ll support me.”