A day or two later, Suozzi got a call from Lynch. “You can’t do that,” she told him. “That’s not the way things get done around here. You have to have more patience.”
Suozzi told her he was tired of waiting. In the days that followed, Lynch dumped Nassau County as a client, and Silver had Suozzi disinvited from the 2004 Democratic National Convention. (Silver declined to comment for this story.)
Suozzi then created Fix Albany with former New York City mayor Ed Koch and Conservative Party chairman Michael Long as co-chairs. In the end, Suozzi backed candidates in only five races, defeating a Republican senator from Syracuse and a Democratic assemblyman from his native Nassau County. Although the electoral impact of Fix Albany was negligible, Suozzi insists the initiative was a huge success. “Do you think anyone would be talking about Medicaid reform if it wasn’t for Fix Albany? I moved it to the top of the agenda.”
After the election, Suozzi and Silver didn’t exactly patch things up. As president of the County Executive Association, Suozzi met with Silver on the Medicaid issue in January 2005. The meeting quickly deteriorated into a shouting match, with Suozzi storming out while Silver derisively shouted “Fix Albany.” Suozzi turned and smiled. “Dot-com.”
It’s possible that Suozzi’s hatred for Silver is what keeps him in the race. Violating one of the basic codes of politics, Suozzi has made it personal with the speaker. He has repeatedly called on Silver to resign and frequently cites his belief that Silver’s endorsement of Spitzer is proof positive the attorney general isn’t a real reformer.
Cynics have wondered if this Suozzi campaign isn’t just a dry run for attorney general or governor four or eight years down the road, but Suozzi swears this is his last campaign (he’s already announced he won’t seek a third term as Nassau County executive). Besides, it’s hard to imagine how pissing all over Spitzer and Silver, two champion grudge-holders, will help Suozzi accomplish that bank shot. A man hoping to maintain his future political viability probably doesn’t hold a news conference with giant baseball cards labeling Spitzer and Silver “Albany Insider All-Stars,” as Suozzi did last Tuesday.
Maybe it’s an ego issue: He’s just not ready to admit defeat. Maybe it’s Freudian—he’s attempting to right the political wrongs dealt his father and uncle.
Time and again, I ask Suozzi why he keeps running, and time and again, he gives the same sort of answer.
“I know I’m the best person for the job,” he told me one day in Glen Cove. “Eliot doesn’t know how to reform government. Look at his targets: Wall Street, the record industry—they’re all outside government.”
“Look, I don’t think, I know I’m the best man for the job,” he told me last weekend. “This is worth fighting for. Too many people quit when it gets hard.”
In the end, I can’t decide if he’s a true believer, a little delusional, or both.
“George Washington was betrayed by his aide-de-camp and found his soldiers on the verge of mutiny,” Suozzi tells me at one point. “So he crosses the Delaware. He surprises the Hessians for the first big victory of the war, and the whole world changed. Anything that has ever happened in history requires sacrifice, particularly when things look bleak.” Then he starts laughing. “Which they do right now.”
Oh, yeah, the main reason Tom Suozzi won’t quit? He still thinks he’s going to win. The Suozzi campaign swears that the July 25 debate will be the first day of the rest of their campaign’s life. “Once people see Tom and Eliot on the same stage, they’re going to insist on more debates,” says Kim Devlin, Suozzi’s campaign manager.
Not bloody likely. To repeat an old political adage, the only way Spitzer loses is he gets caught with a live boy or a dead girl. Even in the unlikely event of Suozzi’s destroying Spitzer in a debate few will see, the attorney general has $18 million worth of ads and a well-oiled union-led get-out-the-vote operation to fall back on. Further drowning Suozzi’s cause is that the pool of potential voters for the primary is already locked in. Unlike in some states, registered independents and liberal Republicans, potential Suozzi converts, can’t change their party registration and vote in the primary.
It’s possible an ignominious loss won’t be a fatal blow. Sheinkopf believes that, in the end, the Spitzer-Suozzi battle is a win-win situation. “Spitzer solidifies his reformer credentials by beating another reformer, and Suozzi gets known better around the state. No one will remember this campaign in four or eight years. No one remembers Koch lost in ’69 and ’73 before he won in 1977.”