Steven Israel, Thomas Suozzi’s Democratic predecessor as 3rd District representative, disillusioned many aspiring members of Congress with one op-ed. Writing in the New York Times back in 2016, Israel related that instead of debating the great issues and crafting helpful legislation, he spent countless hours in a cubicle, hitting donors up for money.
Asked about fundraising by Anton Media Group, Suozzi replied, “It’s a real pain in the neck.”
And no, he does not follow Israel’s daily “donor call” habit.
The Glen Cove resident and former mayor, as well as two-term Nassau County executive, was first elected to Congress in 2016 and won again in 2018.
“I’ve built up a lot of relations with people over [my] 25 years [in politics],” Suozzi, 58, said, adding that his contributors are local as well as the “Washington, D.C. types. They support me not because I’m a Democrat or a congressman, but because they know me and they know I’ll try to do the right thing.”
His fundraising shows the benefits of incumbency. During the election cycle that began in 2019 and ending with the filings with the Federal Election Commission as of June 30, Suozzi has raised about $2.232 million and has $1.926 million cash on hand. Unions are big contributors.
His Republican opponent, George Devolder-Santos of Elmhurst, Queens, has raised $145,486 since last October, and has about $72,000 cash on hand. The figure includes a personal loan of $81,250 he made to his committee.
The 3rd District covers the northern parts of eastern Queens, Nassau and western parts of Suffolk counties.
Making His Case
“Everybody says they’re going to do this, they’re going to do that. I’ve done it. I’ve accomplished a lot in the short time I’ve been here,” Suozzi argued. “Coronavirus—I’ve been bringing money back to the district and New York, making sure we get our fair share. I’ve increased funding for the Long Island Sound by 500 percent. I’ve brought a lot of money in for the cleanup of the Grumman-Navy Plume. I’ve gotten a lot of money for the Northport [Veterans Administration] facility.”
He’s also taken the legislative lead to roll back the $10,000 limit in state and local taxes (SALT) deductions imposed by President Trump’s tax bill voted along party lines in 2017.
Constituent services make up a large part of congressional duties, and Suozzi said that, shortly before this interview, he had helped a family break through bureaucratic obstacles to get a loved one into an acute care hospital. He’s helped hundreds of residents with unemployment claims (even if it’s a state issue) and aided dozens of people get back to the United States when they were stranded overseas during the early days of the pandemic.
Suozzi belongs to the Problem Solvers Caucus, 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans seeking common ground and shaping consensus policies. He said the caucus agreed on a coronavirus stimulus package that would include what he called his party’s non-negotiable position—$500 billion aid to state and local governments. In turn, the Democrats agreed to the GOP’s liability reforms.
He lamented that his leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin could not close their differences during negotiations for a second stimulus package. He claimed the gap is not as wide as people think.
Following the lead of many fellow Republicans, Santos labeled his opponent as a socialist, though political observers put Suozzi in the moderate camp.
In response, Suozzi spokesperson Kim Devlin wrote, “Tom’s record of delivering for Long Island speaks for itself. There is no one in the world who would ever think he is anything but a pragmatic member of Congress who will even work across the aisle to get things done for his constituents. Santos should probably get his talk points from somewhere other than Washington, D.C.”
The incumbent told Anton Media Group he does not believe in “one-size-fits-all” solutions like Medicare for All, a favorite of his party’s far left. He could see lowering the age for Medicare coverage while letting people keep their private health insurance. He does support the Green New Deal.
Fueled By Outrage
Asked why he was running, Santos, 32, mentioned numerous developments that made him angry. But the trigger was when Suozzi voted to impeach President Trump earlier this year after first being opposed to the process.
Santos has worked for Goldman Sachs and currently is a regional director in the NYC office of Harbor City Capital. He called himself a “private equity financier” and claims the company is second behind Google in generating digital leads for new customers for businesses. He asserts that through his investments, he has created more than 500 private sector jobs.
Santos is the first-generation American son of immigrants from Brazil. His grandparents were Holocaust survivors and his parents converted to Roman Catholicism to escape anti-Semitism.
He saw evidence of religious persecution in the way NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo were treating the Hasidic and Orthodox communities in Brooklyn.
He said, “The Democrats have always labeled Republicans as racists, misogynists, homophobes. I am an accomplished gay man and a Republican and I get it. If that doesn’t stand out, I don’t know what.”
Turning to issues, Santos said that if elected, he would not vote to get rid of the Affordable Care Act as it provides coverage and certainty to millions of Americans in this time of uncertainty. He wants to see it replaced eventually with a better health care system.
Santos claims friendships with four Democratic congresspeople and said they can all agree that, in this crisis, saving small businesses is paramount.
He was outraged to see much of the Payroll Protection Program funding go to large and rich organizations while “mom-and-pop” stores, lacking access to modest loans that could have saved them, were going under.
Santos admitted he changed his mind on the CARES Act, the injection of $2.2 trillion to support the economy during the pandemic. Opposed to it as “socialist” at first, he conceded that it had sustained citizens who might have fallen on hard times without it.
However, he is against a second coronavirus stimulus bill, and argued that the federal government ought to implement favorable tax policies for private capital markets to make use of the $5 or $6 trillion they hold to stimulate the economy.
“As of now, with the polarization of the parties and the country, jobs and the economy will be the only thing we can agree on,” Santos said.
Santos follows the Republican line of being against taxation and more government regulation. He argued that billionaires will simply leave the United States if their tax rates are raised.
He supports the efforts of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to expand educational opportunities for poor children who are locked in underperforming inner city schools. A better educational system, he asserts, is the key to prosperity and job growth.
Though polls cited to Anton Media Group by state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs indicate that Suozzi has a comfortable lead, Santos is confident.
“I do have a very clear shot at victory,” he stressed. “The polls indicate that it’s all about law and order and safety. That’s not what my opponent believes in. So, I’m going for it and I’m confident I can have a strong showing. And one thing I can guarantee you. This is my commitment: If it doesn’t go my way this time, I’m doing it again in 2022.”