Rep. Tom Suozzi, who ran for governor, traveled to Buffalo during the fall to rally for Byron Brown, the incumbent who lost the Democratic primary but won an unlikely enrollment campaign. Unfortunately for the Long Island Democrat, this week Brown backed Governor Kathy Hochul, Suozzi’s primary rival.
That was to be expected. Hochul, himself a buffalo, remained on the fence in Brown’s race against the declared socialist India Walton, while sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand supported Walton. But the Democratic president of Nassau, Jay Jacobs, was instrumental in Brown’s victory, and although it destroys their long-standing alliance, Jacobs is eagerly behind Hochul against Suozzi.
With Democrats set to meet next month for broadcasts of nominations and petitions in early March, it pretty much crystallizes how things stand for Congressman and former Nassau County director. She receives party, institutional and trade union support and raises millions for her campaign – the rest of the position – while he has not yet revealed exactly how much he has traveled. “It’s getting better than people expect,” he told The Point, in addition to the $ 2 million he transfers to the Treasury from his federal campaign account.
So on Thursday, Suozzi held a Zoom news conference from his Glen Cove home, where he tried to turn Hochul’s edge in the race to his moral advantage. In doing so, he reached out to a long-standing problem – the use of state aircraft by elected officials to fly on “official business” to places where they also happen to be campaigning. He cited 45 occasions in which Hochul appeared to have done so without reimbursing the state, and urged her to refer the case to State Attorney Tish James’ office for investigation. James, of course, dropped out of the primary as governor and is seeking re-election.
Attorneys general, governors and helicopters have been a thing of the past in Albany before, most sharply in 2007. Former government. Eliot Spitzer was trying to investigate the nemesis of Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s use of state-funded Copts to fly to New York City when GOP fundraisers happened to be underway. But then-AG Andrew M. Cuomo threw Spitzer this quick ball: He issued a report in which he beat Spitzer and aides to use a press release for information to draft a political hit against Bruno.
Ironically, it was only a year earlier, in 2006, that Suozzi last tried to win a primary election for governor, and Spitzer got 81% of the vote against the then county governor’s 18%.
Slim chance that Hochul would now anyway bite on allocating a new AG copter probe. According to the Albany Times Union, which questioned whether the trips were decent last week, Hochul’s team today reimbursed the state $ 19,949 for three trips. Her office said in a statement: “The Governor’s new Deputy Attorney General, who is overseeing ethics, is completing a thorough review of all aviation and necessary reimbursements identified so far, and we are creating additional controls and processes to better ensure consistent compliance with the strictest ethical guidelines. “
A Hochul official added: “In the case of mixed-use flights, the lawyer’s analysis identified three trips so far that deserve reimbursement, issued an invoice yesterday and the payment was made this morning. These trips are on the dates September 19, 24. September and October 4. “
But that was not the extent of Suozzi’s brief against Hochul, whose essence in recent months has been more focused on fundraising from and meeting privately with lobbyists than drawing up a comprehensive plan to respond to COVID-19 increases in collaboration with local officials.
Suozzi released one 30 second video, which he played twice at the press conference, mocked Hochul’s promise of transparency, noted her “45 flights in 45 days” and ended with the posted words: “Open and ethical governance?”
It will be a steep challenge for Suozzi to get these objections to establish where the clock for the primary is starting to tick down.