Democrats to flip Santos seat after New York special election, shrinking House GOP's narrow majority

ByEric Bradner and Gregory Krieg, CNN, CNNWire
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
Democrat wins special election in New York, flipping Santos seat
With his victory in the special election, Suozzi will serve out the remainder of Santos' term, which ends in January.

Democratic former Rep. Tom Suozzi will win a high-stakes special election in New York to succeed disgraced Republican George Santos, a result that will further shrink the House GOP's narrow majority and provide President Joe Biden and his allies a morale boost as the general election campaign kicks into gear.

While Suozzi's win over Republican Mazi Pilip, who conceded the race less than 90 minutes after polls closed, won't affect control of the House, the result nevertheless has major implications for the GOP, whose margin for error in the House will shrink further when Suozzi takes office, leaving them with only two votes to spare on any partisan measure - most notably a coming clash over government spending.

The special election for the Long Island- and Queens-based 3rd Congressional District could also serve as a bellwether for other suburban races this fall. Republicans flipped several House seats across the New York City suburbs in 2022, including the 3rd District, and the state is once again poised to be a focal point in the battle for control of Congress.

The central issues in the special election - including immigration, abortion rights, the Israel-Hamas war and the candidates' postures toward both Biden and former President Donald Trump - could also define this year's general election. Suozzi's tactic of aggressively engaging with GOP attacks, in particular the city's migrant crisis and anxieties over it in Long Island, could also provide a playbook for Biden and other Democrats banking on victories among similar electorates in the fall.

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Suozzi didn't shy away from the national stakes in his speech to supporters Tuesday night, referencing Trump's successful effort to torpedo a bipartisan border bill on Capitol Hill.

"Let's send a message to our friends running the Congress these days," Suozzi said. "Stop running around for Trump and start running the country."

Biden's reelection campaign was also quick to tie Republicans' failure in Long Island to the former president, saying in a statement, "Donald Trump lost again tonight."

Campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez also made a point of connecting GOP dysfunction on the border legislation to the outcome in New York.

"Trump and the MAGA extremists in the House are already paying the political price for derailing a bipartisan deal to secure our borders and fix our broken immigration system," Chavez Rodriguez said.

The 61-year-old Suozzi has been a long-term fixture in local Nassau County politics. A moderate, he previously served as Glen Cove mayor and Nassau County executive, before representing an earlier version of the 3rd District for three terms. He vacated the seat in 2022 for an ultimately unsuccessful bid for governor, and Santos ended up flipping the district that fall.

Pilip, 44, is a Nassau County legislator who was making her first bid for federal office. An Israeli immigrant, she was born in Ethiopia and served in the Israel Defense Forces.

Under New York's special election rules, both nominees were selected by county party leaders in the district.

In December, Santos became only the sixth lawmaker to be expelled from Congress, bringing to an end a scandal-plagued and tumultuous tenure on Capitol Hill. He has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations that he stole donors' identities and ran up thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges on their credit cards, misused campaign funds and lied about his personal finances on House disclosure reports. He faces a possible trial later this year.

With his victory in the special election, Suozzi will serve out the remainder of Santos' term, which ends in January.

The primary for the regular full term will be held in June. But the district's boundaries beyond the special election remain uncertain, as New York's highest court has ordered the state to redraw its congressional map this year. The state's Democratic-controlled Legislature would have ultimate say over the new lines.

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