David Paterson just named a guy from Long Island—William Cunningham—to be his top aide. Will that pave the road to Albany for another Long Islander, Tom Suozzi?
Suozzi, the Nassau county executive, has openly declared an interest in running as Paterson’s lieutenant governor, should he be asked. Cunningham is Suozzi’s ally and former counsel.
Suffolk County Democratic chair Richard Schaffer thinks the chances that Suozzi will land in Albany, or even Washington, are high.
“Tom, in his own right, has established himself—I think he’s on a track for something higher,” said Schaffer in a brief telephone interview last night. “He did the Property Tax Commission, and is recognized as someone who did a good job consolidating his base, which makes him viable on any level—either the state level or federal level. Barack Obama may come calling because of what Suozzi represents: a Democrat coming out of the suburbs.”
Schaffer referred to Cunningham as a friend and former adversary. Schaffer was the county chairman when Cunningham unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Suffolk county executive. Steve Levy, who currently holds the office, won.
Still, Schaffer said, Long Islanders like him are pleased to have one of their own so close to the governor. Schaffer, at one point, said he was simply delighted to be going into state budget negotiations with a top gubernatorial aide who “knows where places like Bohemia, Mattituck and Smithtown are.”
At the same time, geography might be the most compelling reason to keep Suozzi off Paterson’s shortlist of potential running mates.
As one Democratic official from New York City told me, “It completely says, ‘Fuck you, upstate.’ No upstate elected officials anymore.”
As Albany Republicans are fond of pointing out during election season, all of the dominant figures in the ranks of the Albany Democrats are from the city and Long Island. Paterson is from Harlem. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is from the Lower East Side. Democratic State Senate leader, Malcolm Smith is from Queens. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo grew up in Queens and lives in Manhattan. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, like Suozzi, is from Nassau.
“If you’re going to go for someone outside the city, I don’t think Long Island is the place to go. Go upstate, or even to Rockland County or Westchester,” said the city-based Democratic lawmaker. Suozzi “doesn’t balance the ticket enough.”
Schaffer acknowledged that geography is a consideration in balancing the ticket, but said, “I don’t know how you can ignore Long Island. We have 16 percent of the gubernatorial vote at the convention, and we’ve got a great deal of say.”