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12th September

First Published in The New York Sun,  September 12, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

There is a political aphorism that goes something like this: “The most dangerous place in the world is the space between a politician and a camera.” The common thread shared by all those to whom the line is applied is their success at getting elected.

There is at least one promising politician to whom this line cannot be applied. He is poised to go down to crushing defeat in today’s gubernatorial primary: the Democrat Thomas Suozzi.

There is no shortage of insiders who believe that of all the current candidates for governor of the Empire State Thomas Suozzi is the best prepared, the best qualified, and the most independent. Yet all too often, he failed to elbow his way into that space between himself and the camera, and never got his share of coverage in print.

I have been closely monitoring Mr. Suozzi press announcements and daily schedule since the spring. As a moderate Democrat, I had high hopes for the Suozzi effort. He lives in the real world where it is recognized that there is a price paid to increase government services. The too-high tax burden that results is, in turn, paid for by a loss of jobs and economic opportunity. New York’s economy reflects this.

Moreover, as an independent, Mr. Suozzi was ready and willing to take on the Albany political culture that has linked the two major parties as partners in governmental gridlock. New Yorkers are ready for the kind of tough medicine they know is needed to fix things. For all of Mr. Spitzer’s efforts to paint himself as a “reformer,” his ties to the Albany establishment and clubhouse politicos remain troublesome.

It became apparent that Mr. Suozzi wasn’t doing what needed to be done in order to develop momentum for his campaign. While day-to-day campaign appearances in Gotham rarely get attention, that is not the case upstate and in many suburban towns. There is free publicity there for the taking. But the Suozzi campaign rarely took advantage of it. His schedule of campaign stops was shockingly thin. Many of these appearances took place in his home county of Nassau. Despite the strong case that can be made for a Suozzi governorship, he and his campaign organization didn’t harness the energy needed for his campaign.

Mr. Suozzi blames his problems on a failure to raise money. Money is important in politics, and can cover many campaign shortcomings, but money isn’t everything. If you can’t afford to be on the tube, there is no downside to old-fashioned campaigning, non-stop dawn-to-dusk. Mr. Suozzi ended up doing precious little of this and paid the price.

It is fair to point out that Mr. Suozzi had a day job as Nassau County Executive that ate up much of his time. Perhaps he should have resigned, but his constituents understand the central tenets of his “Reform Albany” campaign, and the implications for Nassau and other local governments should he succeed.

Had Mr. Suozzi put more sweat into his campaign, he might have been able to jumpstart his fund raising effort. This would have enabled him to have some presence on the airwaves. Now even he admits that his candidacy will end disastrously tonight in an overwhelming defeat at the hands of Eliot Spitzer. It may have been a tough climb for anyone to defeat Mr. Spitzer this year, but it didn’t have to be this bad. Mr. Suozzi could have at the very least, put real pressure on Mr. Spitzer to distance himself from the status quo. Now that burden rests on John Faso.

© 2006 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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