Voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional District will head to the polling stations today, Feb. 13 to cast ballots in a special election that has drawn a great deal of attention for various reasons. Democrat Tom Suozzi faces off against Republican Mazi Pilip to take the US House seat vacated by disgraced GOP Rep. George Santos. The two candidates could hardly be more different, which brings an extra layer of interest to a race everyone is watching closely.
Suozzi, 61, comes from a political family. The first elected office he held was mayor of Glen Cove, New York, following in the footsteps of his father and his uncle. He was elected in 1993, went on to be Nassau County Executive, and, later, the US representative for the congressional district he is competing for once again. In 2006 and again in 2022, Suozzi ran for governor of the Empire State and lost.
Pilip is a relative political newcomer and almost 20 years younger than her opponent. Previously a registered Democrat but running on the GOP ticket, Pilip is an Ethiopian-born Israeli-American immigrant. She is a mother of seven and a former paratrooper with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Currently, Pilip serves on the Nassau County Legislature – to which she was first elected as a Republican in 2021.
The GOP candidate has racked up a string of endorsements from police unions and other groups. She recently told CBS News that immigration “has to be done correctly.” When it comes to the Second Amendment, Pilip would probably get a C+ from gun rights groups.
While Suozzi has been out and about, glad-handing voters and the media alike, Pilip has been mostly staying out of the public eye – something for which she has drawn much criticism from her opponent. Each candidate has, during this short special election campaign, accused the other of being an “extremist.” These days it is hard to read anything into such a label, however – particularly when it comes to Republicans, who are routinely branded extremists for merely expressing support for constitutional rights.
Suozzi claims to be a moderate but does not appear to differ from the progressive left of his party on most issues – other than strong support for Israel. Pro-abortion and anti-Second Amendment, he likes to talk about “common sense” gun laws, which is the left’s favorite euphemism for ever-expanding restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.
The Democrat’s place in his party is more solid than Pilip’s place among Republicans, one could say. Then again, this is a New York special election, so the Pilip version of Republican politics might be just the right fit for the voters – especially in the apparently purple 3rd Congressional District.
Special Election Tug of War
Wresting this seat from GOP control would be a good sign for Democrats – a signal that the party isn’t in as bad shape with the voting public as has been feared. Many would take it as an indication that 2024 could be a rerun of the 2022 midterm elections in which the anticipated red wave turned out to be a barely noticeable ripple.
For Republicans, a Pilip victory would be a good omen. If, even after their last Republican representative was expelled from Congress under a cloud of multiple possible criminal charges, the voters are still unwilling to elect a Democrat, the GOP can feel more optimistic about November. Of course, retaining the seat would also be good for the Republicans’ precarious majority in the House.
Most polls give Suozzi the advantage, though only just – and usually within the margin of error. These days, it seems as though elections in any part of the country are scrutinized for what the results tell us about which way the wind is blowing. Is this special election the real one to watch, though? The truth is, there is no answer to that question that is not almost entirely subjective. Everyone will know the direction of the wind when the results come in during the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 6 – and probably not before.