EXCLUSIVE: Mazi Pilip Blames Suozzi For State Of The Country

Mazi Melesa Pilip at her December campaign kickoff in Massapequa. (File photo)
File Photo

Mazi Melesa Pilip, a former soldier in Israel’s vaunted Israel Defense Forces and now a Nassau County legislator, is preparing for the biggest battle of her political life in her race against former Rep. Tom Suozzi to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, on the North Shore of Long Island.

Pilip, 44, of Great Neck, has been sparing in her dealings with the press so far, but she spoke earlier this week to the Press, and launched a broadside attack against Suozzi, 61, of Glen Cove, who served three terms in Congress until leaving his seat in 2022 in an unsuccessful bid to run for governor.

Pilip, a mother of seven and an Ethiopian-born Orthodox Jew who was among some 14,000 Ethiopians rescued by the Israel Defense Forces in 1991 as part of Operation Solomon, said in the interview that Suozzi must be held responsible for the crises on America’s Southern border.

“Tom Suozzi was responsible for border security,” said Pilip. “He was there in Congress. He had the opportunity to do something.” She said Suozzi consistently voted with President Joe Biden and “The Squad,” an informal group of eight Democratic members of Congress who tend to take liberal positions on many issues. The group includes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Pilip said that immigration was a major issue for her in the upcoming special election slated for Feb. 13.

The election is being held to finish the term of disgraced Congressman George Santos, who was expelled from the House on Dec. 1 after a damning House Ethics Committee report detailed a slew of federal charges against him. He has pleaded not guilty. The winner must run again for a full term next fall.

Pilip said the border “must be secured,” but did not specify how she would secure it. “We don’t know if they are criminals coming in or not,” she said.

“With all respect to immigrants, I am one of them,” she said. “But [their entry] into the country must be done in a fair way. Right now, it’s so wrong.”

She said the country needs to decide how many immigrants to allow in every year and what type of services to provide them with and how to pay for such services.

“If we don’t do this, we are going to have to plan for more crimes in this country,” she said.

Pilip attended college in Haifa, in Israel, where she met her husband, who was in medical school in the Middle East country. They came to the U.S. at the end of 2004. Pilip had served in the IDF as a paratrooper before coming to the U.S. She said she has worked as director of operations at her husband’s medical clinic in Smithtown.

Pilip is actually a registered Democrat and has twice won races for county legislature on the Republican line. She won her second term this past Nov. 7.

Pilip said she decided to run for the congressional seat vacated after Santo’s removal “because of the situation of our country,” referring specifically to the situation at the border.

But she also said that Suozzi and Biden are responsible for the economy, which she sees as failing. She talked about what she called “high” interest rates, and said food prices also remain high.

“It’s a lot for people to pay” at the supermarket, she said.

She seethed when told that Democrats, particularly Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat from Glen Cove who is the legislature’s minority leader, say that Pilip is very quiet at legislative meetings and rarely says more than “here,” or “aye” on votes.

File Photo

“I’m not a talker,” Pilip said. “Some people love to talk. I will talk when there is something to say.”

She noted that she has authored two bills that passed unanimously – one to create a task force on antisemitism and the other to document sales of catalytic converters after a number of car thefts in the county.

Pilip said the task force would be coming up with recommendations for dealing with antisemitism, including suggestions that Holocaust history be taught in public schools.

The 3rd Congressional District is one of the wealthiest in the country, according to demographic figures, with a median household income of about $129,000. It is overwhelmingly white – 69. 5 percent – and has a large Jewish population. But it has changed since Suozzi last represented it. It now includes areas of Massapequa, Levittown and Farmingdale, which tend to vote Republican.

Lawrence C. Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said that at this point,” the race is a toss-up.”

Pilip, Levy said, “is Suozzi’s worst nightmare.”

The reason, he said: Many voters will cast their ballots for the candidate they believe will be more supportive of Israel. While Suozzi has always had close ties to the Jewish community and even visited Israel during the Christmas holiday, Pilip’s membership in the IDF will play a large role in voters’ thinking, Levy said.

Suozzi is a big fundraiser and has the experience. But, Levy said, “For every box he checks, she checks a box also.”