Sussman “seriously considering” county executive run

Attorney and Democratic activist Michael Sussman says he’s “seriously considering” running next year for Orange County executive, an office he sought in 2001 but not since then.

Sussman, who’s been involved in a series of prominent county issues as attorney or activist – or both – for the last several years, said in a phone interview that he’d run on an agenda that emphasizes environmental protection and a different approach to job creation than the one represented by the proposed Legoland theme park in Goshen, a project he opposes. He said he hopes to announce his decision whether to run by mid-January, leaving enough time for another Democrat to start campaigning in case he doesn’t run.

“I’m weighing the efficacy of any run and have not made a decision,” Sussman said.

Sussman ran for county executive 15 years ago, beating former (and now current) Cornwall Town Supervisor Richard Randazzo in a Democratic primary and losing the general election to Republican county legislator Ed Diana, who went on to serve 12 years as county executive. Diana was succeeded in 2014 by Steve Neuhaus, a Republican and former Chester town supervisor who beat former county legislator Roxanne Donnery in the 2013 election.

Neuhaus confirmed this week he plans to run for reelection in 2017.

Sussman said one factor he’s weighing is how unified Democrats would be behind him, given the split in his party when he ran in 2001. “I’m certainly not interested in a fractured Democratic Party,” he said, adding that Democrats need a strong challenger in 2017.

No other potential candidates for county executive in 2017 have surfaced. Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton, who competed with Neuhaus for Republican support to run in 2013 but didn’t wage a primary, said this week he has no plans to run next year.

Sussman has clashed with the Neuhaus administration on two major issues that spilled over from Diana’s reign: the overhaul and expansion of the county Government Center, and the attempted privatization of the county-owned Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation. Sussman fought unsuccessfully in court to stop the partial demolition of the 46-year-old Government Center, which is an architectural landmark, and won a separate court fight to block the sale of Valley View.

Republicans have held the Orange County executive’s position for every term except one since the position was created in 1970. The only four-year interregnum in Republican rule was 1990-93, when former assemblywoman Mary McPhillips served as county executive.

All 21 county Legislature seats also are up for election next year. Republicans have controlled the chamber every year but one since 1970.

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