There’s a special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional district next Tuesday, and border security has been front and center in both candidates’ campaigns.
Former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi is facing off against GOP-backed Mazi Pilip in what promises to be a preview of the November election. Suozzi lost to former Rep. George Santos in 2022, who was subsequently kicked out of office earlier this year.
Pilip is a promising political newcomer. She showed everyone in last night’s debate that she can hang with the toughest opponent.
Suozzi blasted Pilip over her lack of solutions to the border problem.
“She has no solutions whatsoever,” he fumed. “Just there’s a problem, there’s a problem, oh, by the way, it’s a really big problem. That’s not enough. That’s not how you govern.”
Pilip gave it back to Suozzi with equal force.
“You know the difference between me and you?” Pilip, a county legislator, asked the former congressman “You are a talker. I am the person who will deliver.”
The polls show the race a statistical dead heat. But Suozzi tripped over his own feet during the debate trying to explain his bragging about kicking ICE agents out of Nassau County.
Suozzi was forced again to defend a 2022 gubernatorial debate clip in which he boasted that he kicked federal immigration agents out of Nassau County. He explained that ICE hadn’t been cooperating with local police and noted that he was later one of only 18 Democrats in Congress supporting funding ICE.
“Would you say to your police commissioner, Oh, I don’t want to listen to you,” he asked Pilip, referencing how he deferred to local officers over federal ones.
Suozzi has campaigned on a platform of compromise, saying he is willing to buck his party while Pilip toes the line.
Suozzi’s position is indefensible, but Pilip is also struggling to explain why she opposes a bipartisan bill that would have shut the border.
“Unfortunately my opponent has embraced the extremism. She says she’s concerned about the border but she opposes the bipartisan solution that would actually close the border,” Suozzi said just 10 seconds into his opening statement.
Whether that argument will work is the big question heading into November’s races. Can the Democrats convince voters that the rejected bipartisan bill could have improved the situation at the border?
The New York special election on Tuesday will present an early glimpse of a dynamic that’s playing out in swing districts across the country. Democratic candidates are shedding their skittishness about border security and pouncing on GOP opposition to a conservative immigration deal, accusing the party of refusing to solve a problem on orders from former President Donald Trump, who said his party should sink the deal unless it was “perfect.”
“I just think the fact that we can openly talk about it now and not be so squeamish is a gift from Trump,” said one Democratic strategist, who said the message “reinforces one of the public biases in our favor: GOP is chaos.”
Who knows? Maybe the voters will like the idea of chaos in Washington.