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Suozzi tour hits the road


Surrounded by men in long, black coats and long, white beards, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi took his young campaign for governor into the heart of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community yesterday – and he didn’t forget his Hebrew.

“Good morning to everyone – Boker Tov,” Suozzi bellowed, greeting local leaders at a breakfast in Borough Park. He grinned as he repeated the salutation in Hebrew, then threw in some Yiddish for good measure.

The first day of Suozzi’s listening tour of New York State had a distinctly Jewish flavor. He spoke on a Jewish-themed radio program, attended the breakfast, visited an Orthodox school, met with Jewish editorial writers, and last night presented an award at an autism awareness dinner sponsored by a Jewish group in Manhattan.

While Suozzi is Catholic and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic favorite, is Jewish, some at the breakfast at the Renaissance Ballroom yesterday said Spitzer is no shoo-in for the Orthodox vote.

“He maybe thinks Tom Suozzi is not an issue to him,” said Chanina Sperlin, head of a Crown Heights political action committee, criticizing Spitzer for ignoring his group. “But he makes a mistake.”

Ryan Toohey, a Spitzer spokesman, said the campaign is “not taking any community, part of the state, or individual voter for granted.”

City Councilman Simcha Felder, who represents Borough Park and the surrounding area, said it was “very early on” and he had not decided whom to support. He said key issues for local voters are state aid for parochial schools tuition, affordable housing and social services funding.

“This is a community with large families that needs help in every which way,” Felder said.

The breakfast, attended by 50 to 60 people, was organized by Ezra Friedlander, a local political consultant who has been working with Suozzi.

Suozzi arrived about 45 minutes late because of his radio interview but received a warm reception. He talked about his achievements fixing Nassau County’s finances and touted his executive experience as Glen Cove mayor and in the county.

“Nobody grows up saying to themselves, ‘When I grow up, I want to be the governor of New York State,'” Suozzi said. “But everything I’ve done in my professional life has prepared me for this particular job.”

He delved into some new policy issues, calling a proposal by Gov. George Pataki to give tax credits to parochial and public school parents “very clever.” But Suozzi stopped short of endorsing it, and said he is against private school vouchers.

“I don’t think vouchers is a politically viable option,” he said.

Suozzi said the state and city should invest more money in affordable housing, an issue on which he has been criticized in Nassau.

He also got a few laughs. After one of the guests, Rabbi Shea Hecht, ticked off a list of rabbis in his family – brothers in Park Slope and Queens, sons upstate, and a nephew in Brooklyn Heights – Suozzi quipped, “We’ve got to get this family on our team.”

But it seemed he already had. “What could we do to get you to win?” Hecht asked.

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