Race To Replace George Santos Nears Finish Line


Race To Replace George Santos Nears Finish Line

Early voting for the special election to replace disgraced former U.S. Rep. George Santos began Feb. 3, and the official election takes place Feb. 13

Replacing Santos will either be former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) or Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip (R-Great Neck). Both were announced as the party’s nominees for the election in December, shortly following Santos’s expulsion.

Suozzi has made his experience the cornerstone of his campaign, citing his record as Nassau County executive from 2001 to 2009 as well as his record in this congressional seat from 2017 to 2023 – a seat that he gave up to unsuccessfully challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in the 2022 gubernatorial primary. He has also emphasized his commitment to bipartisanship, giving regular mention to his role as chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus when he was in Congress as well as his friendship with former Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). King was succeeded in Congress by Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville).

“I wrote an Op-Ed with Peter King, back in 2019, which talked about a bipartisan compromise to the immigration issue,” Suozzi told reporters in a Zoom press conference. “Peter King and I don’t have the same politics. But we found a path forward to have a bipartisan compromise on this issue.”

King was an honored guest at Pilip’s campaign launch, a fact which Suozzi acknowledged – but said that furthers his point of being able to work with anybody.

Suozzi has also hit out at Pilip for declining several debates with him as well as supposedly being media shy. Despite this, the pair are set for a Feb. 8 debate on News 12 Long Island, and Pilip acknowledged what is perceived as silence in an interview with the Press.

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

Pilip’s political career is remarkably short compared to Suozzi’s – she has only been a county legislator since 2022. Her campaign has instead focused on her personal background as an Ethiopian Jew who went to Israel during Operation Solomon and served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) before emigrating to the United States.

Though Pilip is a registered Democrat holding office as a Republican, she has tried to tie Suozzi to the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Her campaign has claimed that he kicked Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) out of Nassau County. 

The district represents the Towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay in Congress, as well as northeastern Queens. Though Suozzi carried it comfortably for all of his terms, Santos won by a wide margin over Democrat Robert Zimmerman in 2022, suggesting that the recent redrawing of the district may benefit a Republican. The low turnout that comes with a special election also tends to favor Republicans.

Despite this, the Cook Political Report – among several other polls – have Suozzi narrowly winning the race, with David Wasserman of Cook writing that Democrats have reason for “cautious optimism.”

The winner of this election will still have to run in the standard primary and general elections this year.