Former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip (R-Great Neck) will face off in a debate on Feb. 8, hosted by News 12.
The pair are running in a special election to replace George Santos, who was expelled from Congress on Dec. 8.
Suozzi, who held this seat from 2017 to 2022 and declined to run in the 2022 election for the seat, has expressed an interest in having more than one debate, while for now, Pilip appears to have agreed only to this one – but Pilip campaign spokesperson Aidan Strongreen has indicated that could change.
At this point in the campaign, the pair have largely sparred over personal records than issues.
Suozzi has emphasized his bipartisan record and the need to elect a staunchly pro-Israel Democrat. His campaign also slammed Pilip for supposedly refusing to answer questions from the media.
“Mazi Pilip needs to let the people of Nassau and Queens know where she stands on the issues,” Suozzi campaign senior advisor Kim Devlin said. “Participating in only one cable debate that is five days before the election and five days after early vote begins is unacceptable. Why is Mazi Pilip hiding?”
Pilip, an Ethiopian-born veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), has countered those claims, and hit out at Suozzi for past comments about The Squad, a group of progressive representatives who have made headlines for criticizing Israel.
“Mazi Pilip has opened a productive and enjoyable dialogue with the media and the public regarding the issues that are of concern to neighbors,” Strongreen said in a statement. “From securing the borders and supporting the police to fixing the economy, Mazi is on the right side of the issues. Her opponent, on the other hand, asked to join The Squad. Mazi’s campaign team is working to accommodate as many media requests as possible leading up to the February 13th special election for the 3rd Congressional District.”
Suozzi clarified on Friday the context of his comments regarding the Squad, saying it had come after President Trump had indicated they should go back to their countries – most members of the Squad were born in the United States.
“My father is an Italian immigrant,” Suozzi said. “I grew up hearing stories about people saying that to him. That’s un-American to say something like that. So I said ‘I’ll be an honorary member of the Squad today.’ But I don’t agree with the Squad on many issues, and certainly not on Israel.”