Interviews & Profiles

5 things to know about Tom Suozzi

The former congressman is officially running for his old seat.

Former Rep. Tom Suozzi is trying to take back his old seat.

Former Rep. Tom Suozzi is trying to take back his old seat. J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday via Getty Images

Every politico in New York has canceled their Galentine’s Day plans because a blockbuster special election is now set for Feb. 13. Queens and Nassau Democrats announced their chosen candidate Thursday.

“Tom Suozzi has a proven record of fighting for his constituents, fighting to safeguard our suburban way of life here on Long Island and Queens and always advocating for sensible solutions to the real challenges affecting everyday average Americans,” wrote state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs and Queens Democratic Party Chair Rep. Greg Meeks in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Suozzi Campaign, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to restore integrity, competence, and a focus on the real needs of our larger community in the Third Congressional District.”

The special election for the 3rd Congressional District will determine who will finish out the rest of term for disgraced former Rep. George Santos – who was expelled from Congress on Friday. Santos, of course, is the lying congressman who has been indicted by federal prosecutors on almost two dozen fraud charges Although he has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and even survived a previous expulsion attempt, a House Ethics Committee report released the week before Thanksgiving found that he used campaign funds for personal purposes and filed false financial disclosure forms with the House and false reports with the Federal Election Commission. Ultimately, his congressional colleagues voted 311-114 to expel him.

The special election for his seat will kick off a season of intense congressional races in New York as Democrats seek to flip a handful of seats in the state and retake control of the House. Suozzi – who previously held Santos’ seat before leaving Congress to run for governor last year – has a lot going for him: name recognition, close relationships with the Democratic establishment. But he’s also got some vulnerabilities: The governor isn’t his biggest fan, and he’s got a patchy electoral track record.

Here are five things to know about Suozzi: 

Suozzi used to represent a version of the 3rd Congressional District – and once beat Santos

Suozzi represented the congressional district – one of the nation’s wealthiest – for three terms from 2016 to 2022. In June 2016, Suozzi won a five-way Democratic primary before going on to defeat Republican state Sen. Jack Martins in the general election. Two years later, he defeated Republican nominee Dan DeBono to win reelection. In June 2020, he won a three-way Democratic primary and then went on to defeat Republican nominee Santos by more than 12 points in the general election. Last year, Suozzi gave up his seat in order to run for governor, which cost him an influential spot on the House Ways and Means Committee. (For more on how he did in the governor’s race, see the next item.)

Now that Santos has been expelled, Suozzi wants his old Long Island and Queens seat back. But it may not be that easy. After redistricting, the 3rd Congressional District is now more conservative than when Suozzi held the seat, and Republicans have wiped out Democratic incumbents across Long Island in recent election cycles.

He ran for governor against Kathy Hochul

Suozzi ran against Gov. Kathy Hochul for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the primary election in 2022 – and she trounced him. He ran to Hochul’s right, with a campaign message focused on cutting taxes and fighting crime. He accused the governor of supporting “soft on crime” bail reform policies and irresponsibly spending federal COVID-19 relief money that had flooded the state by making direct payments to help New Yorkers in need afford rent. Describing himself as a “common-sense Democrat,” his platform revolved around policing and gun violence, tax relief, economic revitalization, education, housing, infrastructure and government ethics. Suozzi only managed to get 12% of the vote, placing third behind Hochul and progressive New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who barely campaigned. 

He recently worked for a lobbying firm

In February, Suozzi joined the global consulting firm Actum as co-chair. He served as a strategic adviser to clients rather than registering to lobby, since he was barred from lobbying Congress for two years as a former member. The company, which was founded by veterans of Mercury Public Affairs last year, bills itself as a firm specializing  in strategy, communications, government relations and “storytelling and narrative development.” Suozzi isn’t the only former elected on Actum’s payroll. The firm also boasts former Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and former Members of Parliament Lord Ian McNicol and Lord Ed Vaizey. Suozzi and his senior adviser Kim Devlin left the firm shortly before Suozzi’s candidacy was officially announced. 

He was investigated by the House Ethics Committee in 2022

Suozzi has focused on ethics reform throughout his career, calling out Gov. Kathy Hochul for failing to disclose meetings with lobbyists, and Santos for…well, everything. But he himself was investigated by the House Ethics Committee regarding allegations that he violated federal law meant to curb insider trading in 2022. Suozzi insisted it wasn’t an ethical scandal, though, arguing that he disclosed his stock trades every year to the Ethics Committee and that the issue was just one of paperwork not being submitted on time. In the end, the Ethics Committee dismissed any potential charges against Suozzi.

In Congress, he had one signature issue – and it didn’t go as he planned

While in Congress, Suozzi coined his famous mantra “no SALT, no deal” and brought together a coalition of lawmakers from New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois to demand changes to the SALT cap – which limits the amount of state taxes that taxpayers can deduct from their federal tax bill. He fought to either remove or increase the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions in high-tax states, pledging to oppose any sweeping tax measures that didn’t include changes to the SALT cap. Though niche, the issue was particularly relevant to Suozzi’s base of wealthy and upper-middle-class homeowners in Long Island’s tony North Shore suburbs, who feel that they should get a break on their federal income taxes since they already pay such high state and local property and income taxes. Despite his insistence on “no SALT, no deal,” Suozzi’s initiative didn’t get anywhere before he gave up his congressional seat to run for governor, and the SALT cap still rests at $10,000.