Sussman trades jabs with Neuhaus after forgoing race

Steve Neuhaus

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus lobbed a strong insult at a political rival last weekend after Michael Sussman announced he won’t run for county executive this year, telling the Mid-Hudson News that the attorney and Democratic activist was less popular than “sewer treatment plants” and “life-altering diseases.”

That line, and one that followed about Sussman’s “frivolous lawsuits” against the county, prompted outraged responses from Sussman and Brett Broge, the county Democratic chairman. Sussman issued a statement saying Neuhaus’ remarks “display a mean spiritedness which is deeply disturbing and should lead to questions about this man’s capacity and judgment.”

Michael Sussman

“His ad hominem comments suggest that he has a new role model: Donald Trump,” Sussman wrote.

Broge also compared Neuhaus’ invective to the president’s in his own statement, saying, “What will help galvanize our party into having a candidate is Mr. Neuhaus’ petty ‘Trump-like’ juvenile response.”

The Mid-Hudson News later removed the paraphrased sentence about sewer plants and “life altering diseases” from its article. But Neuhaus, a Republican who took office in 2014 and is seeking a second term this fall, has since confirmed to the Times Herald-Record that he made those analogies, explaining that he meant that voters would think poorly of Sussman once they knew his background and political views.

“We were ready to run against him or anybody else,” Neuhaus said.

Here’s how his reaction to Sussman’s decision was initially reported: “‘I think Mr. Sussman realized that his views and his interests are not in sync with the average voter and the average Orange County Democrat,’ Neuhaus said. The incumbent said public opinion of Sussman ranked him lower than sewer treatment plants and life altering diseases. ‘I wish him luck. I hope he doesn’t continue to cost taxpayers thousands of dollars with frivolous lawsuits.’”

Sussman and Broge both point out that one of those lawsuits stopped Neuhaus from selling the county’s Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabiliation, after courts ruled that he needed a super-majority vote of the Legislature to do so.

Sussman had considered taking on Neuhaus for months, meeting with supporters to develop a party platform that he said could frame a campaign for himself or another Democratic candidate who stepped in. A week before announcing he wouldn’t run, he released the results of that work, a 15-page report offering principles to guide economic development, sustain farming and resolve tensions in southeastern Orange County over Kiryas Joel’s growth, among other issues.

His decision not to run leaves Democrats without a county executive candidate to lead the party’s slate this fall, with less than six months to go before the Nov. 7 county elections. Democratic committee members will meet to endorse candidates on May 31 and may have a contender for county executive then. Candidates begin collecting petition signatures on June 6 and must file their petitions by July 13.

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    Chris McKenna

    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full

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