New York is holding a special election to replace George Santos. Here’s what to know about the stakes.



WASHINGTON − Voters in New York’s 3rd congressional district are heading back to the polls Tuesday to select a replacement for embattled former New York Republican Rep. George Santos.

Tuesday’s special election follows Santos’ expulsion from the U.S. House in December, a seat he held for just under one year. It’s a historic set of circumstances, as Santos became the sixth lawmaker in the country’s history to be expelled from the chamber.

Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Pilip are vying for the seat, which encompasses parts of Long Island and Queens. Democrats are hoping to flip back the once-blue district, while both parties are using Tuesday’s election to test the waters ahead of other 2024 races.

Voters will have the final say in determining who will carry out the remaining 11 months of Santos’ term. Here’s what to know about New York’s special election:

Why is NY holding a special election?

New York’s 3rd congressional district is holding the contest on Tuesday to fill the vacant seat that once belonged to Santos. The House expelled the former New York lawmaker in December after a scathing House Ethics Committee report found evidence he misused campaign funds for his own personal benefit and committed federal crimes. 

The New York native had been mired in controversy since before he entered Congress, as Santos had baldly embellished and fabricated parts of his resume and background. He also faces a multitude of federal charges, including money laundering, wire fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud and lying to Congress.

New York state law requires the governor to declare a special election within 10 days of a vacated seat.

Who’s running in the special election?

Two candidate are vying to fill Santos’ vacant seat − Democrat Suozzi and Republican Pilip.

Suozzi is a former three-term U.S. House member who was first elected in 2016. While in Congress, he served as vice chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Suozzi also served as Nassau County executive, where he focused on the area’s economy and crime rates.

Pilip is a Nassau County legislator born in Ethiopia. She moved to Israel with her family and served in the Israel Defense Force before immigrating to the United States. In the state legislature, Pilip has also addressed New York’s public safety, along with efforts to combat antisemitism.

A Newsday/Siena College poll released last week found Suozzi held a slim 4-point lead over Pilip as Democrats look to flip the seat blue.

The winner of the special election will represent New York’s 3rd district through the beginning of 2025, competing Santos’ original term.

The stakes are high for House Republicans

The stakes for this election are particularly high given House Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the lower chamber. The party breakdown in the House currently lies at 219-212.

A Suozzi or Pilip victory will determine just how much breathing room GOP leaders will have when it comes to passing key legislation.

Should Pilip win, that would bring Republicans’ count to 220. With full attendance, that means Republicans could afford to lose three GOP votes on legislation and still be able to pass bills without any Democratic support.

If Suozzi wins, that would give Democrats an extra edge at 213 seats. That means, with full attendance, Republicans could only afford to see two GOP defections if they want to pass anything along party lines.

While one vote may seem small, the GOP-controlled House has rarely been able to unite all of its members behind a single cause. The consequences of Republicans’ narrow majority in the lower chamber reared its head last week, when GOP lawmakers failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas by just one vote, resulting in one of their most embarrassing setbacks. 

What will the NY race say about the 2024 general elections? 

The 2024 general election is still nine months away, so the results from the race on Tuesday, no matter what they are, won’t necessarily serve as a forecast. But the contest will still offer insights into the effectiveness of both Democratic and Republican strategies.

For example, Republicans in New York have been hammering Democrats on violent crime in the state. Those efforts paid off in the 2022 midterm elections, when the GOP flipped a slate of seats held by Democrats. If Pilip wins, that could indicate the GOP’s messaging is still working.

And a Suozzi victory would almost certainly excite House Democrats, who are eager to regain control of the lower chamber. New York’s 3rd congressional district is one of 18 districts that President Joe Biden won in the 2020 election, but Republicans managed to win in the 2022 midterm elections. Any path to reclaiming the House for Democrats will run through those 18 seats.

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