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Rep. Tom Suozzi enters the race for New York governor, becoming the fourth Democrat to declare

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y.
Alex Brandon

Rep. Tom Suozzi jumped into the race for governor of New York Monday, making him the fourth Democrat to officially throw his hat in the ring ahead of next year’s primary.

Suozzi will now compete against the three other declared candidates of his party: Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Suozzi said his political background and private sector experience as an accountant and attorney make him fit for the job.

“I’ve got the background and the proven ability to do this job,” said Suozzi. “Everything I’ve done in my life has prepared for this particular job at this particular time.”

Suozzi said he wants to help kids in failing schools, fight crime and end homelessness — all of which has been made worse by the pandemic. He also said he wants to continue to fight for the environment, and reduce some of the highest taxes in the country.

“New York state has a $200 billion budget,” Suozzi said. “You need somebody who has the executive experience, who has the ideology and the commonsense approach, and who has the vision for what needs to be done in New York state.”

Suozzi is banking on his position as a political moderate in the Democratic party to carve his path to the nomination. He represents a district on Long Island, where Republicans swept Democrats in a handful of key races last year.

That’s brought Suozzi to the same prediction held by other Democrats heading into next year: that voters don’t have an appetite for candidates who consider themselves further left than the party’s establishment.

“I’ll work with anybody to actually solve problems and get things done on behalf of the people that I serve. I’ve got a proven record throughout my career of always doing that,” Suozzi said. “I’ll work with anybody. It's not about being politically correct. It's about doing the correct thing to actually help people.”

His entrance to the race could take votes from Hochul, who also considers herself a moderate Democrat, and ultimately hand someone else, like Suozzi, the nomination.

James and Williams, meanwhile, are considered further to the left than Hochul and Suozzi, and could cut into each other’s votes, making it easier for another Democrat to win the primary. Suozzi’s entrance to the race could now level the playing field, cutting into Hochul.

It won’t be the first time Suozzi seeks the state’s top office. He first ran for governor in 2006, but Democrats ultimately chose former Gov. Eliot Spitzer as the party’s nominee that year.

At the time, he’d served one term as the county executive in Nassau County after four terms as the mayor of Glen Cove. He went on to lose reelection as county executive in 2009, and after a few failed come-backs, was elected to Congress in 2016. He has led the House Problem Solvers Caucus and has a seat on the coveted Ways and Means Committee.

His path toward the nomination could rely on his ability to fundraise heading into next year. As of September, his campaign account for Congress had about $3.1 million in cash on hand, according to filings. Hochul has already raised about $10 million for her campaign.

Suozzi, in recent years, has made a repeal of the recently imposed cap on state and local tax deductions a top priority in Congress.

Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, decided to place a $10,000 cap on those deductions in 2017. That was to free up funding to allow tax cuts for large companies and high-income earners.

Before that, there was no cap on deducting state and local taxes from federal taxes. That was seen to largely benefit high-income earners, and those with high-value homes.

About two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would raise the cap from $10,000 to $80,000, but the change has yet to be approved by the Senate.

Eastern Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin is the presumptive Republican nominee for governor. The Democratic primary for next year’s governor will be held in June.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.