Rep. Tom Suozzi seeks traction in governor’s race with unusual strategy in a pandemic: talking directly with voters

Publication: Spectrum Local News
By: Nick Reisman

Democratic candidate for governor Tom Suozzi this week was eager to make some news in his town hall with voters from the Hudson Valley and Capital Region.

“I don’t know if any reporters are on this call,” Suozzi said, “but I’m going to make some news here.”

Suozzi’s news: He pledged to select a person of color to run with him as a candidate for lieutenant governor this year. But it’s more or less beside the point whether the press was listening to the call. Suozzi’s campaign said at one point on the hours-long event that more than 8,000 people were on the line.

“The reason I do these town halls is because I need to talk straight to the voters,” Suozzi said. “I need the people to be involved in this campaign and recognize how powerful you are.”

Suozzi took questions from Cifford in Saratoga Springs who was concerned about climate change and David in Montgomery County upset with government corruption.

The answers from Suozzi are off the cuff and a bit meandering: the corruption question was answered with a story about Suozzi pushing back on Medicaid spending with Sheldon Silver and Joe Bruno.

But the events, of which Suozzi has now held several, has become something of a rarity in New York politics, especially during a pandemic: retail campaigning.

Suozzi’s campaign has sought to use the events to gain traction in what appears to be an uphill climb against Gov. Kathy Hochul for the Democratic nomination. He has called for changes to New York’s laws that largely ended cash bail by allowing judges to consider whether a defendant is too dangerous to be released and has hammered the governor for her use of state aircraft to attend political events (Hochul’s office has said the campaign has so far reimbursed the state $19,000 for the aircraft usage).