Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island faces significant barriers to winning the Democratic primary for governor, but his chances might improve in the coming months as he campaigns alongside his running mate Diana Reyna. The former Brooklyn deputy borough president is aiming to become the first Latina ever elected to statewide office by adding her voice to his calls for political centrism in a party that has a vocal left wing.
Their joint efforts to get on the ballot for the June 28 primary officially kicked off earlier this week following an event in Midtown Manhattan attended by approximately 1,000 people. This comes a week after the Democratic state convention where Gov. Kathy Hochul got the formal backing of party insiders as their preferred 2022 nominee against the Republicans. That is the latest sign of the disadvantages Suozzi and Reyna face with fundraising, endorsements and polling against Hochul and her running mate, Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin.
More and more voters will likely start paying attention to the Democratic primaries in the coming weeks, so Suozzi and Reyna could have breakout moments before Election Day. Latino voters could potentially play a big role in this, considering how they helped New York City Mayor Eric Adams (who offered Suozzi a job as deputy mayor last year as he contemplated a gubernatorial run) win a competitive Democratic primary last year.
Reyna – who served in the City Council from 2001 until 2013 – says she is ready to do everything she can to help Suozzi as they run in their respective primaries. She could also make history as the first person of Hispanic descent elected to any statewide post if she wins her primary and the November election.
City & State recently spoke with Reyna to hear her thoughts on the issues and the outsized significance of having a Dominican American woman in office. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
So what’s the latest from the campaign trail?
Monday night was a blast. Over 1,000 people were in the room at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan. I cannot tell you how many individuals from different cultures coming together. They are energized with the message of common sense and going back to the fundamentals. They want to see things happen in the state of New York.
What is the historical significance of your own candidacy?
I'm cognizant of the symbolism of my candidacy. I was elected as the first Dominican descent woman in the state of New York back in 2001. I served as a district leader, City Council member, the first Latina as deputy borough president here in Brooklyn under Eric Adams. I was the first one to go to high school and college in my family. This is the message of a first generation American like Tom. (Editor’s note: Suozzi is the son of Italian immigrant and fellow former Glen Cove Mayor Joseph Suozzi.)
The post of LG has a pretty thin official portfolio other than being president of the state Senate. What do you think is the proper role of the lieutenant governor and what would you do with it if elected?
This isn’t about sitting and cutting ribbons. This is about doing what New Yorkers need. Tom has been very clear on what that agenda is – making sure we have changes to bail reform, understanding that we have to lower taxes, and the opportunity to be able to improve our schools statewide.
Some elected officials defend their personal ethics by saying they did nothing illegal. Do you hold yourself to a higher standard than just meeting the letter of the law?
The letter of the law, everyone should follow. The opportunities to be able to have what would be those ethical issues addressed in Albany are very important and critical to the public's trust in government.
I know that my last campaign was a tumultuous campaign. I don't know if you've read about that campaign. That campaign had what would be a difficult path where my treasurer left in the middle of that campaign. There is money that I still owe that I will have to pay back and I intend on paying back. So I understand what it is to hold myself to the letter of the law.
Why do you think Latinos have voted Republican in greater numbers in recent elections?
Latinos, do care about immigration, but it is not the only issue. Economic insecurity is impacting Latinos. The issue of understanding where their child is, are they safe? Those are the issues that impact them. Latinos care about public safety, lowering their taxes. They are middle class. They are working class. If every one of them were to stop working tomorrow, what would we have in the state?
That’s an interesting point about the importance of Latino workers. Many of them are undocumented and didn’t qualify for some COVID-19 relief programs. Would you support more money for the Excluded Workers Fund to benefit them via the upcoming state budget?
Throwing more money at the problem is not enough. It’s not the answer. It’s not a solution. How is that helping the 16 year-old who’s trying to support his family by earning a living.
The fund would give them cash ...
It’s cash relief. It’s not a career. People want to see public safety restored. So people could go to work. People want to work. They don’t want cash relief. That is temporary.
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