The race for George Santos’ congressional seat could be signs of how suburbanites will vote

FILE Congressman Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., listens during the New York governor's primary debate at the WCBS2-TV studios, June 7, 2022, in New York.  The race on Long Island to replace disgraced former Congressman George Santos could offer clues about the mindset of suburban voters around the world as the 2024 election battle heats up across the country.  (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, file)

(Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

The race for George Santos’ congressional seat could be signs of how suburbanites will vote

Election 2024

ANTONIUS IZAGUIRRE

February 10, 2024

A special election in New York’s suburbs to replace disgraced former Rep. George Santos could offer clues about the mindset of suburban voters around the world as 2024 election competition heats up across the country.

The battle for the House of Representatives seat that Santos held until his recent expulsion on Tuesday is becoming a defining factor in the battle for control of Congress, as candidates test political messages that their parties hope will resonate with voters in the fall the suburbs will appeal. Not only could it subtract another vote from Republicans’ slim majority in the short term, but it will also be closely watched for any signals it sends about what voters elsewhere in the suburbs might be thinking when they see it very entering a volatile election year of 2024.

The Long Island race pits former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who represented the district for three terms before running for governor, against Republican candidate Mazi Pilip, a county lawmaker.

The seat, which represents the suburbs just east of New York City plus a small part of Queens, became vacant after Santos was expelled from the House of Representatives late last year after

get orphaned

accused of multiple counts of donor fraud and theft.

George Santos expelled from Congress because vulnerable California Republicans flipped their vote, While While

The Santos scandal gives the race a unique backstory; the candidates have campaigned on issues that could target suburban voters everywhere, with Republicans railing against immigration and crime while Democrats cast themselves as the last line of defense on abortion rights.

Tuesday’s special election will give both parties a chance to assess strategies for November’s general election, when New York is expected to be a battleground in the battle for control of the House of Representatives, where Republicans now hold a slim majority .

It’s a warning to the rest of the country as candidates and political operatives look at the strategies, tactics and messaging to see how it will play out in their swing suburbs, said Larry Levy, dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies. New York University. Hofstra University on Long Island. February

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and weave suburban districts across the country.

The district itself could potentially be reshaped before the November election due to an ongoing redistricting battle in New York, making its status as a proxy for voter sentiment in a district that hasn’t yet changed particularly interesting.

Pilip entered the race with an intriguing personal story.

Born in Ethiopia, she left that country at age 12 as part of Operation Solomon, when Israel airlifted some 14,500 Ethiopian Jews in less than two days as civil war and famine raged in the Horn of Africa. The newcomers struggled to transition from their developing country to Israel, with many Ethiopian Israelis alleging racist treatment, police harassment and discriminatory contempt.

As an adult, she served in a gunsmithing unit in the Israeli army. She moved to the US after marrying a Ukrainian-American doctor in 2005. Pilip was elected to the Nassau County Legislature in 2021.

Although she publicly identifies as a Republican, Pilip registered as a Democrat when she came to the US and has still not changed her voter registration. She said she drifted away from the party as it became more liberal. A spokesperson said Pilip decided to wait until after the election to formally change her party affiliation to avoid legal complications that could potentially keep her off the ballot.

Despite her background, Pilip has put pressure on Democrats and the president

Joe

Biden on US immigration policy. She has advocated for increased surveillance of the border to stop illegal immigration, as well as the construction of a border wall.

She held one of her first press conferences on the campaign outside a location in Queens, where New York City officials had set up a large shelter to house homeless migrants, many of whom were bused into New York after crossing the southern border crossed.

This is a major concern for my district, Pilip said. Many residents are very concerned about this. No one has asked them if they want male migrants to live next to their playground. They don’t like that.

Suozzi, a political moderate, has now distanced himself from the policies that have damaged Democrats in the New York suburbs.

The democratic brand has been decimated in the last three years,” Suozzi said. “It started with violence in New York City and the bail reform that took place and was very effectively weaponized by Republicans.

That crime problem has now been exacerbated by the migrant problem, he said.

As the election approaches, Suozzi has increasingly spoken about strengthening border policies, pointing to times when he confronted his own party about it while in Congress. He recently said he would support a temporary closure of the U.S.-Mexico border to slow the flow of migrants into the country. Biden has used similar rhetoric at the border.

The former congressman has also highlighted his deep experience governing three terms in Congress and his stints as mayor and county executive on Long Island as evidence that he could forge bipartisan deals on tough issues, such as ongoing congressional negotiations over border control and Israel’s Hamas was.

This is serious business. This requires some ability and some competence to navigate politics and governance and policies, both domestic and international, he said. She is not vetted, she is not prepared and will make things worse.

Pilip, in turn, has responded aggressively to criticism from Suozzi and Democrats that she is anti-abortion, a key part of the Democratic Party’s general election year strategy.

Pilip said that while she personally opposes abortion, she would oppose any effort by Congress to ban it nationwide. She has also said mifepristone, an abortion drug, should be available nationwide.

Abortion is a personal decision, a personal choice. Every woman should make that decision. That’s why I’m not going to support a national abortion ban or risk women’s health

care,” Pilip said.

Abortion

rights have been a winning issue for Democrats in recent elections.

Polling

has shown that a broad group of Americans support at least some access to the procedure.

The race is difficult to handicap. Suozzi has some of the advantages that usually come with an established position. He won comfortably in his last race in the district in 2020, defeating Santos, a relatively unknown Republican at the time. The same year, Biden defeated Donald Trump in the district.

But two years later, Santos, who falsely portrayed himself as a wealthy Wall Street financial wizard, defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman in the midterm elections. That was part of a wave of Republican victories in elections on Long Island in recent years, in both congressional and local races. But his spectacular crash-and-burn stint in Congress could linger in the minds of voters weighing a choice between the parties.

Another question looming over the race is whether the district will survive much longer in its current form. The state’s highest court

threw out

Late last year, the congressional map of New York was drawn up and a new set of lines was ordered to be drawn in late February. The ruling was a major victory for Democrats in the state, who were looking for more

favorable congressional districts

It remains unclear exactly what approach Democrats will take to redistricting, but the party could try to reshape the district in their favor regardless of who wins, perhaps by including a slightly larger portion of New York City.

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