by Steve Levy
All eyes are focused on what is surely to be a very tight election to replace Congressman George Santos, who was removed by Congress due to his outrageously fabricated stories.
(Let’s put to the side for the moment the absurdity of Republicans having dumped Santos before the end of his term — thereby torpedoing their attempted impeachment of the incompetent Homeland Security director — while indicted Democratic Senator Bob Menendez continues to hold court in the Senate.)
Pundits are waiting to see if the outcome of this special election becomes a bellwether for this November.
In a normal year, one would think that the Democrat, former Congressman Tom Suozzi, could handily regain the seat he vacated just two years ago for his unsuccessful run for governor.
Suozzi is well-known in Long Island’s Nassau County, having been a long-term county executive and local mayor, while his opponent, Mazi Pilip, is new to the political scene, having won a county legislature seat just three years ago.
But this isn’t any year. While Pilip’s résumé is thin on experience and accomplishment, her story fits the moment and her district like a glove.
She is a black Ethiopian, who happens to be Jewish and served in the Israeli Defense Force.
The Third Congressional District has a high concentration of Jewish voters at 11%. https://jewishdems.org/flip-a-jew-ish-district-from-red-to-blue/
They normally vote Democratic in large numbers, but this is the first congressional election after Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 Jews in cold blood. https://www.npr.org/2023/11/11/1212458974/israel-revises-death-toll-hamas-attacks-oct-7
It’s also a time when Nassau residents are concerned about large numbers of illegal aliens flowing into their communities due to the sanctuary city policies of neighboring New York City.
And Nassau County has, in the last few years, experienced a red wave as suburban voters have been rejecting Democrats’ soft-on-crime policies. Making a trip into New York City is too dangerous for comfort. Both the county executive and district attorney races went to the GOP.
Add to that the fact that Nassau Republicans have wisely ignored the penchant of the national GOP to neglect mail-in and early voting, and maximized these tools to great success in the last few years.
These unusual developments have made what would’ve been an easy Suozzi victory into a very close fight. Suozzi’s advantages are his pedigree within the county, as well as a huge advantage in political ads, thanks to outside PAC support doubling that being spent on behalf of his Republican opponent. https://rollcall.com/2024/02/02/suozzi-laps-pilip-in-fundraising-ahead-of-new-york-special-election/
But all that money might not be enough if Jews in the districts bolt from the Democratic Party this year, despite Suozzi’s support for Israel. Additionally, Pilip is pounding Suozzi for his 100% support of Biden’s legislation that led to 17% inflation during his term. https://budget.house.gov/press-release/families-crushed-as-bidens-total-inflation-breaks-17
But the biggest vulnerability for Suozzi is his past weakness on border issues. In his quest to win the Democratic primary against Governor Kathy Hochul in 2022, Suozzi sought to burnish his left-wing credentials by gleefully announcing that he had kicked ICE out of Nassau County when he was county executive. https://congressionalleadershipfund.org/blog/suozzi-doubles-down-on-kicking-ice-out-of-nassau-county/ Good Democratic primary fodder, but poisonous in a general election, where suburban residents fear being overwhelmed by an open border.
If Suozzi is to pull this out, it will probably be because of the albatross most Republicans will bear in this election: abortion.
The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision gave Democrats advantages in races where they were underwater on every issue that matters to the constituents — from immigration to the economy to crime.
Republican hardliners against abortion have been going down throughout the nation. While Pilip has a more moderate position and opposes a national ban, she may nevertheless be associated with her party’s platform. https://www.newsday.com/long-island/politics/mazi-pilip-third-district-special-election-suozzi-ugev6jhb
So, which will prevail? Concern over an open border or fear of losing abortion rights (though that would never happen in liberal New York anyway)?
If Republicans lose this special election, it may simply be that the former well-known Congressman returned to capture his old seat. But if exit polls show abortion played a role, it had best be a wake-up call to the Republican National Committee.
Steve Levy is President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a NYS Assemblyman, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.” He is the author of “Solutions to America’s Problems” and “Bias in the Media.” www.SteveLevy.info, Twitter @SteveLevyNY, email@example.com