As the Steve Israel era ends in New York’s 3rd congressional district, the incumbent Democrat’s party will keep the seat. Democrat Tom Suozzi defeated Republican state Sen. Jack Martins to become Israel’s replacement-elect, The Associated Press projects.
Suozzi led Martins 53 percent to 47 percent with 94 percent of precincts reporting.
Republicans mostly were on the defensive this year. But the 3rd District was one of the party’s few opportunities to flip a Democratic seat in 2016, making it one of the most important races in the country. The district tracks the North Shore of Long Island, stretching from northeastern Queens, across northern Nassau County and into northwestern Suffolk County.
Israel had comfortably held the district since 2001 though it has been competitive on the presidential level. President Barack Obama carried it by 3 points in 2012.
The National Republican Congressional Committee pulled almost all of its ad reservations in the district. But Martins’ campaign clung to internal polling over the final few weeks to argue he still had a shot to take Israel’s seat.
Suozzi will have big shoes to fill, as Israel’s retirement means the 3rd district will go from having as a member a close confidant of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to having a freshman, back-bencher representative.
The member-elect is a familiar figure to voters in his district, having been mayor of the small city of Glen Cove for eight years and executive of Nassau County, with a population of nearly 1.4 million people, for another eight years. He also worked from 2010 to 2013 as a senior adviser on public-private partnerships at the investment bank Lazard Freres.
A lawyer and a certified public accountant, Suozzi earned high marks for overhauling Nassau County’s government, refinancing its debt, improving its bond ratings, and helping rescue it from the brink of insolvency, partly by pushing for tax increases.
He sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006, but got just 18 percent of the vote against Eliot Spitzer in the primary. He lost his bid for a third term as county executive in 2009 and lost again when he ran in 2013.
In the House, Suozzi says, he’ll concentrate on getting federal funding for infrastructure, including water systems, roads, bridges and airports. “My main focus will be on bringing funds back to our district,” he says.09