Tom Suozzi Returns To Congress: How It Happened, And What’s Next

Tom Suozzi
Photo by Michael Malaszczyk

Tom Suozzi Returns To Congress

Rep. Tom Suozzi, who defeated Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip (R-Great Neck) in the special election to replace disgraced former Rep. George Santos in New York’s Third Congressional District on Feb. 13, took office on Feb. 28.

Suozzi defeated Pilip by a margin of 54% to 46%, according to the New York State Board of Elections.

The Third District covers a portion of northeast Queens, as well as the entirety of the Towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay. With Suozzi’s election, he is now the sole Democratic congressman on Long Island, with the three other seats being held by Republican Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, Andrew Garbarino, and Nick LaLota.

“On the night of my election victory, I promised the people of Long Island and Queens I would deliver a simple message to this chamber: wake up,” Suozzi said at his swearing in ceremony. The people are sick and tired of the finger pointing and the petty partisan bickering. They want us to work together.”

Suozzi held this seat from 2017 to 2023, and comfortably won election to it three times – perhaps most notably when he defeated the then-unknown Santos in 2020. However, Suozzi’s elections to the district were prior to the 2022 redrawing of the district’s lines. 

“I know there are so many good people in this chamber on both sides of the aisle,” Suozzi added in his swearing-in speech. “But people are worried about the cost of living they’re worried about the chaos at the border. They’re worried about Israel, Gaza and Ukraine. They look to Congress. And what do they say? The extremists get all the attention. We’re letting ourselves be bullied by our base. We aren’t getting anything done. We need less chaos and more common sense.”

Since this was a special election to fill out the remainder of Santos’s term because he was expelled in December, Suozzi will still have to run in November.

Santos won election to the seat in November 2022. Most of his background was exposed as fabrications by The New York Times the next month. He took office in January, but soon saw himself facing up to 23 federal counts of campaign finance fraud, and following a scathing House Ethics report in November 2023, he was expelled from Congress.

Former President Donald Trump took to Truth Social, where he raged at Pilip for not endorsing him for president and claimed Suozzi “can be easily beaten” in November.

“I have an almost 99% Endorsement Success Rate in Primaries, and a very good number in the General Elections, as well, but just watched this very foolish woman, Mazi Melesa Pilip, running in a race where she didn’t endorse me and tried to ‘straddle the fence,’ when she would have easily WON if she understood anything about MODERN DAY politics in America,” the former president wrote.

Trump went on to say that if Pilip had endorsed him and leaned into the MAGA faction, she’d have won, and that whichever candidate runs against winner Suozzi in November will win if they do so.

Despite these claims, many attributed the Republicans’ underwhelming performance, at least nationally, to Trump’s brand of Republican politics.

Analyzing the Special Election

In this particular special election, both Pilip and Suozzi sought to distance themselves from Trump and President Joe Biden, respectively, while trying to tie each other to their party’s most recent presidents.

Some pundits have also called this election a bellwether for November, as Suozzi was able to win comfortably in both Queens and Nassau County – but one of Long Island’s political pundits poured cold water on the idea.

“Be careful not to worry too much about national implications here, because these races very rarely turn on issues and on personalities – they almost always hinge on turnout,” Michael Dawidziak, founder of Strategic Planning Systems, Inc., told the Press. “The Democrats did a much better job of early voting and absentee voting. The Republicans, in large part thanks to Donald Trump’s vilifying of absentee voting and early voting for these many years, put much more of their efforts into the Election Day turnout, and traditionally that has worked for them locally. But then we had the first major snow event in two years, of course, on Election Day, and that had to handicap the Republicans to some degree. It’s like going to the Super Bowl with a great passing game, but then it’s rainy and windy and it turns into a running game.”

Dawidziak added that Pilip and the Republicans performed admirably in this race, but against Suozzi’s name recognition and brand of being bipartisan, the short calendar ultimately ensured victory for the Democrats.

“She acquitted herself well,” Dawidziak said. “She was running against somebody who has like, 100% name recognition. She got 46% of the vote. I think that was a credible showing.”

Dawidziak said that Suozzi’s race should be competitive in November, but added that that is subject to change due to the upcoming redistricting process. As a result, Anthony D’Esposito remains the most vulnerable Long Island congressman – but that was always the case, according to Dawidziak. 

WATCH: Tom Suozzi’s Swearing-In Ceremony