WOODBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Democratic challenger Thomas Suozzi focused on financial issues, but also touched on matters such as immigration, casinos and the Nassau Coliseum during their second debate Tuesday.
During the debate, which was sponsored by the Long Island Association, Mangano touted the fact that he has not raised property taxes while Suozzi said the county’s debt has grown under Mangano’s watch.
“I have no plan to raise real property taxes, I think they’re regressive,” Mangano said. “I have zero plans to raise real property taxes, that’s for sure.”
“He borrowed money, he’s been borrowing money to the point that we have the highest debt in the history of Nassau County,” Suozzi said.
The hour-long debate was held one week before voters head to the polls to decide who will be county executive.
It’s a rematch of a race decided four years ago by fewer than 400 votes: Republican Mangano, who swept into office amid growing tea party sentiment, is trumpeting his record of not raising taxes against Suozzi, a former rising star in state Democratic politics seeking to regain his old job as county executive.
The contest is seen as a barometer of the national political mood, according to one expert.
“People from all over the country will be watching the results for hints about 2014,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the Hofstra University National Center for Suburban Studies. He noted Nassau County is viewed as a typical suburban swing county by political observers.
“Will dissatisfaction over the rollout of Obamacare hurt Democrat Suozzi? Will the anger at conservatives over the government shutdown damage Republican Mangano?” Levy said.
Suozzi, who was beaten by Eliot Spitzer in the 2006 Democratic primary for governor and had been widely viewed as a politician with aspirations beyond Long Island, concedes he was chastened by Mangano’s victory in 2009 and admits he took his opponent too lightly. Suozzi left more than $1 million unspent in his losing re-election bid for county executive.
This time, Suozzi is promising voters that if he is returned to the county executive’s office, he will not run for higher office.
Suozzi has claimed Mangano has mismanaged the county’s finances, which have been under the supervision of a state-appointed fiscal watchdog since 1999 — predating both officials’ elections.
Mangano has blitzed the airwaves with commercials touting his record of not raising taxes, as well as his experience handling the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. He also is credited with brokering a deal for private developers to rebuild the crumbling Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and surrounding property in the heart of the county.
During the debate, Mangano touted the Coliseum deal is not costing taxpayers a dime, but Suozzi said it has cost Long Island the New York Islanders.
“I asked the people do you want to invest $400 million and keep the Islanders in their entirety, but you have to listen to the people, they said no,” Mangano said.
A recent poll put Mangano at a 17-point lead over Suozzi.
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