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New York voters will decide Tuesday who will replace disgraced former congressman George Santos in a race that could determine House politics for the rest of the year.
Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Pilip are locked in a tight battle to fill the vacant seat that covers parts of Long Island and Queens. The swing district that has elected both Republicans and Democrats in recent years.
The Feb. 13 special election comes as Republicans hold a narrow majority in the House with just 219 seats, while Democrats hold 212 seats.
With such a slim majority, the Republican Party has struggled to move forward with President Mike Johnson’s most pressing priorities.
Just this week, Republicans suffered an embarrassing blow when they failed to oust Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a chaotic vote. If Democrats win another seat before a vote can be taken to redo Mayorkas’ impeachment, Republicans can say goodbye to thoughts of impeachment.
At the same time, House Republicans are grappling with efforts to pass aid to Israel after a standalone bill also failed and failed.
With their majority threatened to shrink even further and Democrats looking to flip the House this fall, all eyes are on New York’s critical special election, where more than $25 million could be spent on advertising in the race for election day.
Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi are vying to fill the congressional seat left vacant since the impeachment of Congressman George Santos.
Who is on the ballot?
Democrats aim to win back the seat by electing Tom Suozzi, a former congressman who represented the district from 2017 to 2023 before launching a risky run for governor.
Republicans have put their faith in Republican candidate Mazi Pilip, an Israeli-American who served in the Israel Defense Forces before immigrating to the United States and being elected as a Nassau County legislator.
An Emerson College poll released Thursday shows Suozzi and Pilip in a tight race with Suozzi at 50 percent and Pilip at 47 percent among likely voters.
Another Newsday/Siena poll also showed Suozzi with a slight advantage over Pilip with 48 percent to 44 percent.
Mazi Pilip cast her vote early at a polling station in Massapequa, New York, on Friday. She is locked in a tight race against Democrat Tom Suozzi to fill the seat vacated by George Santos.
Tom Suozzi seeks return to position he previously held before running for governor
Voters in New York’s Third District go to the polls for the February 13 special election.
With the race statistically tied, both candidates have been campaigning on issues that have been in the spotlight in recent months, such as border security and support for Israel.
Issues at stake
Pilip and Suozzi held facing news conferences outside a migrant shelter in Queens last month, putting the crisis at the forefront of the race as the border debate intensified in Washington.
Suozzi has criticized House Republicans for refusing to negotiate on the border and has taken aim at his opponent’s opposition to the bipartisan border bill introduced in the Senate. Pilip has criticized the bipartisan agreement, stating that it “legalizes the invasion” of the United States on the southern border.
The issue is also being raised on the airwaves. In an ad targeting Suozzi from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican Super PAC, Suozzi appears saying how he “kicked ICE out” as Nassau County executive, but Suozzi resisted and launched his own ad in which he appears defending the immigration authorities.
The candidates have also clashed fiercely over abortion, which has proven to be a successful line of attack by Democrats since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. Suozzi and several outside groups supporting him have been running ads about the topic.
Pilip, a self-described “pro-life” mother of seven, has said she would not support a national ban on abortion and that every woman should be able to make her own decision, but has expressed support for Dobbs’ decision in the that The Supreme Court returned to the states abto.
Perhaps where the candidates have been most closely aligned is in their stance on Israel. Both have been actively engaging the New York Jewish community as Israel wages war in Gaza following the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7.
Suozzi stood out from some Democrats by announcing his support for the standalone Republican-led Israel aid bill.
He said that while he would prefer a comprehensive bipartisan package, he is committed to doing whatever is necessary to support Israel. That bill failed in the House.
Pilip, who is Ethiopian Jewish and served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army, has also expressed support for Israel and criticized the rise of anti-Semitism in New York.
While Pilip and Suozzi have largely focused on their district, the special election has been overshadowed by the 2024 presidential race.
Pilip has accused Suozzi of voting with Biden ‘100% of the time’ and has tried to link him to the so-called squad. Suozzi has rejected attempts to link him to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, responding during the only debate that it is “as credible as being a member of George Santos’ volleyball team.”
Meanwhile, Pilip, a registered Democrat despite being a Republican, has refused to say whether she voted for President Trump in 2020. She has pledged to vote for whoever the Republican nominee is in 2024, but has said Trump “doesn’t can represent us” if he is convicted.
Replacement of George Santos
New York’s Third District seat has been vacant since Republican Congressman Santos was expelled from Congress in December.
And while many Republicans want to overlook the election of the serial lying fabulist who flipped the district seat from blue to red in 2022, his presence looms large in the race to replace him.
Suozzi has invoked Santos on multiple occasions and warned that his opponent “has not been vetted or prepared.”
Pilip has rejected accusations that his public record is thin, but the memory of Santos has been difficult to shake.
Former Congressman George Santos speaking at the Capitol. He was expelled from Congress last year, leaving New York’s Third District seat vacant.
Santos faces multiple charges of fraud and theft. He will go to trial later this year.
Last fall, Santos pleaded not guilty to multiple charges. He is accused of stealing the identities of campaign donors and racking up thousands of dollars in bills, in addition to using campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses like designer clothes and Botox.
In November, a long-awaited report from the House Ethics Committee found substantial evidence that Santos violated ethics and committed crimes, prompting a motion to expel him from Congress.
On December 1, Santos became the sixth House member to be expelled from the House, opening a vacancy in New York’s Third District.
Santos is scheduled to stand trial in September.