Democrats Prevail in N.Y. Special Election Thanks to a Snowstorm

News & Politics

Former New York 3rd District Congressman Tom Suozzi won the special election to replace Republican George Santos, giving the Democrats a rare victory in New York’s Nassau County. Suozzi received 54% of the vote to GOP state legislator Mazi Pilip’s 46%.

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Suozzi defeated Pilip during a snowstorm on Long Island that almost certainly tamped down the Republican vote total. Democrats had turned out in large numbers during early voting and Pilip couldn’t get the Nassau County GOP turnout machine into full gear. 

“This race was fought amidst a closely divided electorate, much like our whole country,” Suozzi said. “We, you, won this race because we addressed the issues and we found a way to bind our divisions.”

The suburban vote will be critical in November, and Democrats believe they’ve found a formula that works. Suozzi was as tough on the border crisis as Pilip or any Republican. He also promised to guarantee abortion rights, fight crime, and cut taxes. He promised to work toward bringing back the state and local tax deduction (SALT) that northeast Republicans have been advocating for. 

The snowstorm brought some low comedy to the race as Democrats accused the Republican-controlled Nassau County government of not clearing the roads in Democratic precincts.

“Of course we’re worried about where they plow the roads,” Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic Party chairman, said on Monday.

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New York Times:

Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau County’s Republican executive, said he was “personally offended” that Democrats would question his administration’s integrity, and vowed to clear the streets equitably.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the House Republicans’ main super PAC, even hired private snow plows to help clear the party’s best precinct areas faster, according to its spokeswoman.

In the end, it was not enough to close the gap.

Pilip’s inexperience showed throughout the race. She’s an Ethiopian-born former Israeli soldier with little campaign experience, and Suozzi and his Super PAC savaged her for some of her ambiguity on issues like gun rights and abortion. 

“How can you run for Congress in this post-George Santos world and not be completely transparent?” he demanded on the debate stage.

And Suozzi portrayed himself as a moderate Democrat looking to work with both sides.

The Hill:

The race was seen as an important bellwether heading into the November general election, as New York will be key to Democrats’ strategy to win back control of the House. The 3rd Congressional District is one of five in the state that voted for Biden in 2020 but elected a Republican representative in 2022.

During his campaign, Suozzi emphasized his ties to the 3rd District, which he represented for six years before not seeking reelection in 2022 for an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid. He positioned himself as a moderate who is willing to break with his own party and work across the aisle.

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The crisis at the border ended up being a wash politically. How that plays out in other swing districts is hard to say. Suozzi was able to co-opt Pilip by talking tough about the border, and Pilip’s inexperience made it hard for her to pin Suozzi down on some of his earlier ambiguities about the border.

November is a long way off, and Republicans still have the opportunity to develop a strategy to use the border crisis to their advantage. 

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