A Conservative Campaign Built on "Handshakes & Shoe Leather"

This morning I spoke with Ed Mangano, the Republican candidate for County Executive in Long Island’s Nassau County. Mangano has already put a tremendous scare into 8-year incumbent Democrat Tom Suozzi, who was expected to stroll to re-election. And while votes are still being counted, it looks like Mangano will pull off the win. Coming in one of America’s largest counties, a victory in such an underdog race would be an important one for conservatives nationwide.

On election night Mangano came within 237 votes of knocking off the incumbent Suozzi, with more than 7,500 absentee ballots yet to be counted. Mangano told me this morning that the County Board of Elections now puts him just 106 votes behind, as the actual machine counts have been reconciled against the unofficial election night tallies. The 7,500 absentee ballots will be opened late this week, but ballots from Republicans outnumber those from Democrats by more than 750.

Mangano’s campaign was built around dissatisfaction with government that had promised reform and sound fiscal management, but had failed to deliver. Tom Suozzi had said that Republicans had too many patronage employees – then he increased the count. He said that people were overtaxed, but he raised taxes instead of cut them. He complained about deficits, but couldn’t balance the budget himself.

Mangano – who has previously run with the backing of New York’s Conservative Party – campaigned on a straightforward message:

  • Cut wasteful spending
  • Fix the broken property tax assessment system
  • Create jobs and promote economic opportunity
  • Repeal Suozzi’s energy tax

The voters responded. And even though Mangano was given little chance to win, and had little money to spend, his campaign succeeded. He started out with nothing more than ‘handshakes and shoe leather.’ He made sure that as quickly as donations came in, they went back out – for flyers, mailers, signs, and later for TV time. Mangano was a candidate with a message, running against a failed Democratic administration. He’s come a tremendous distance because the voters know the County needs commonsense fiscal management.

With a population of more than 1.3 million, Nassau is one of the nation’s most populous and wealthiest counties. Along with Fairfax, VA, Westchester, NY, and places like Montgomery and Bucks counties in Pennsylvania, it is a bellwether for GOP fortunes in suburbs nationwide. It’s also particularly instructive because Nassau is a County where Republicans were discredited. The previous Republican administration had been seen as inefficient and corrupt, and was blamed for high taxes, wasteful spending, and economic mismanagement. For a Republican to win in Nassau, voters would have to be so upset with the Democratic incumbent that they are willing to take a chance on the same party they rejected just a few years ago. If voters in Nassau are willing to flip back to Republicans just a few years after rejecting them, so will voters elsewhere.

Mangano is now on the verge of an extraordinary victory n a critical race. Suozzi himself had challenged Eliot Spitzer in a 2006 gubernatorial primary, and was trying to decide whether to run for Senate, Attorney General, or some other statewide post. His prominence on Long Island made him a strong contender. With a win in the absentee ballots and the recount process, Mangano will cut that effort short.

While Mangano seems to have the votes to win, you can bet the well-funded Democrat machine won’t give up easily. You can help ensure that the will of the voters is upheld, by donating now.

Cross-posted to theconservatives.com.