MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The race for Nassau County executive is getting national attention. The county’s nearly 1.5 million residents have been known to set voting trends.
It’s not a flashback. It is the current political landscape in Nassau, with a rematch underway.
Republican County Executive Ed Mangano is trying to fend off a challenge by Democrat Tom Suozzi, who wants his old job back. It was a stunner four years ago when Suozzi lost by a mere 386 votes, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“I didn’t take the race seriously. I didn’t even spend all my campaign money. I thought I was way ahead,” Suozzi said Wednesday.
Mangano said it’s not that simple.
“He lost four years ago because he raised taxes and Nassau County was the highest-taxed county in the nation,” Mangano said.
The county has the richest households in the state, but its own house is still under the thumb of a state financial control board. On Wednesday, Gusoff spoke to voters who had only one thing on their minds.
The race is being watched nationwide as a bellwether, as it was in 2009 when the tea party helped kick Democrats out.
“Local elections in Nassau can be the canary in the coalmine. They can be a bellwether on what’s on voters’ minds in the suburbs nationally and those voters will determine who controls Congress in 2014 and who wins the White House in 2016,” said Lawrence Levy, Dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.
And this race is turning into a battle for both sides, featuring ads that attack the apparent failures of the other.
With the county split almost evenly between Democrats, Republicans and independents, it’s almost impossible to predict how it will all shake out.
“If you remember Ali-Frazier, the ‘Thrilla in Manila,’ this one could be the ‘Thrilla in Mineola,’” Levy said.
Both Mangano and Suozzi have law degrees but the similarities end there.
“My opponent had eight years and all he did was raise real property taxes and increase our debt here in Nassau County,” Mangano said.
“I solved the financial problems of Nassau County and kept us table and got us 13 bond upgrades. Ed Mangano has made a mess of the finances and, in fact, has caused everyone’s school taxes to go up,” Suozzi said.
And their visions differ on the Nassau Coliseum’s future, the broken sewage treatment plant, a flawed assessment system, and jobs to keep young people from moving away.
But their differences will mean little unless they can rally their troops. Last time they faced each other, more than two-thirds of the electorate stayed home, Gusoff reported.
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