Speaking to the Lambda Independent Democrats, a surrogate for Thomas R. Suozzi, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, said that Suozzi opposes same-sex marriage, but that gay and lesbian couples should be granted all the rights of marriage.
“He believes in civil unions,” said Jay S. Jacobs, chairman of the Suozzi campaign, at a March 21 meeting of Brooklyn’s gay political club. “He believes all the rights afforded in marriage should be afforded to gay couples as well... No matter what you call it, no matter how you term the contract, you should get all the rights of marriage.
Suozzi, the Nassau County Executive since 2001, has launched a serious campaign. Currently, he is running television ads in the major metropolitan areas across the state, a move that has forced Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general and the candidate generally viewed as the front runner for the Democratic nod, to also begin running ads. The Democratic primary is on September 12.
Jacobs, the chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Party, presented Suozzi as someone who could reform state government while he characterized Spitzer as someone who could not change the status quo.
“Albany is broken,” Jacobs said. “It’s not going to change by electing a candidate from within the establishment.”
Jacobs said that Suozzi’s record in Nassau County showed he could reform government. When he took office, the county’s bonds were getting near-junk credit ratings and its $2.4 billion annual budget was filled with wasteful spending, Jacobs said.
“Tom came in and he saved $100 million right off the bat,” Jacobs said. “”He turned it around... We’ve had 11 bond upgrades.”
Suozzi sees “four major problems” in New York. They are poor public education, “soaring property taxes,” an upstate that is in a “near depression,” and a lack of affordable housing, Jacobs said.
“He’s a different politician,” he said. “You may not agree on every issue, but you’ll agree on the substance.”
Taking questions from the audience, Jacobs was asked if Suozzi’s candidacy was hurting the Democratic Party’s chances of winning the governor’s mansion.
“I don’t think anything about a primary is bad for our party,” he said. “Not just the speaker of the Assembly, not just the Democratic leaders... the people of the state want the opportunity to make that choice.”
Neither candidate appeared before the club. Spitzer had been scheduled to speak, but state business kept him away. The club had planned on making an endorsement, but that was changed.
“The membership decided to postpone the vote,” said Gary Parker, the club president. “They were very anxious to hear from the candidates themselves.”
Spitzer has endorsed same-sex marriage and promised to introduce legislation to make that a reality if elected governor. In his role as attorney general, however, he has fought against five lawsuits brought by gay and lesbian couples seeking to get married. Four of those cases will be heard by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, on May 31.
Brad Hoylman, a onetime candidate for the City Council District 1 seat in Lower Manhattan, represented Spitzer at the Lambda event. He noted Spitzer’s view on same-sex marriage, his support for a state anti-bullying bill that includes protections for queer students, and his promise to get more state funds to groups that serve the LGBT community.
“The attorney general is very committed to increasing that support,” Hoylman said. “We have the commitment of attorney general Spitzer that he will stand with our community.”
Hoylman is also a past president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, which endorsed Spitzer and his lieutenant governor running mate, Harlem state Senator David Paterson, on March 8. At that meeting, Emily Giske, a club member who is a vice chair of the state Democratic Party, spoke on Spitzer’s behalf, while Suozzi chose to send no surrogate.
Also appearing at this week’s LID event was Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner who was endorsed by the club during his unsuccessful 2005 run for mayor. He thanked LID for its support and was guarded about the Democrat’s chances of winning back the U.S. House in November.
“If the election were held today we’d be in very good shape,” he said, but added that the way Congressional districts are drawn gives incumbents a tremendous advantage.
“Redistricting has had the effect of making districts too safe,” he said.