It didn’t seem quite right to ask the Nassau County Executive to do the interview via instant message, as has been the Friday routine on The Politicker, so I got myself slotted into his extensive call list, as he launches his version of a pre-campaign listening tour, which he expects to extend for somewhere between “several weeks and two months.”
Suozzi said his “New York a United State” tour would give him a chance to “travel throughout the state and talk about management, fiscal discipline, and government reform” as well as “my experience at solving complex governmental problems” and the problems of various New Yorkers. And he said that he’d like to start talking about the issues right away, offering a general framework that you find the money to cut taxes, spend more on schools, upstate jobs, and housing, by cutting Medicaid fraud.
Then we talked some politics.
Suozzi said he wasn’t worried about his outsider status. (Being an official maverick has got to be the next best thing to having lots of support among insiders!)
“I’ve always been in a position where I had to run against the establishment,” he said. “It gives me some independence to focus on government reform and change and solving problems without the baggage of the establishment holding me back.”
He also said he expects state party leaders to try to prevent him from getting on the ballot. “I expect that. It makes it tougher.”
As for Eliot, no scorched earth here.
“I have nothing bad to say about Eliot Spitzer. He deserves the reputation he enjoys.” As? “As one of the top Attorney Generals in the country.”
But what about that little case involving one of your constituents, a Mr., um, Langone?
“That’s not my province…. I haven’t read any papers or anything like that…. Ken Langone is a Nassau County resident who supported me for my position as County Executive and has offered to support me.”
He also put a novel, but sharp, spin on Langone’s money.
“He doesn’t want anything from me as far as government goes,” Suozzi said.
Just to kill Eliot, right? “Yeah,” he chuckled, before continuing:
“He just wants me to win and do a good job. In a way, that’s actually liberating. I’d rather have that kind of support than support from lobbyists who want me to help their clients.”
What about Dick Grasso’s $139.5 million payday?
“It seems like a tremendous amount of money, but that’s a private sector company…. The interesting thing about it is the courts will have to decide what’s appropriate here. It would be great if that case could be resolved as quickly as possible…. If Eliot wins the case, the money will go back to the millionaires who own the New York Stock Exchange anyway.”
Would he like to debate Spitzer?
“Debates are great for voters. The more the better.”
(Earlier today, I’d asked Eliot about debating Suozzi. “I’ve always believed debates are part of a healthy Democratic process and I look forward to them,” Spitzer said, without committing more specifically.)
I also asked Suozzi about some of the problems in his own administration, including one Deputy County Executive indicted and another who left under a cloud in a timesheet scandal.
“Every large organization has problems and you’ve got to judge people based on how they address those problems,” he said. “We now have a Deputy County Executive for Compliance. It was a very difficult, but a very important, learning experience.”