After House Expels Santos, Both Parties Gird For Special Election

George Santos

Former Rep. George Santos

George Santos

Voters in New York's Third Congressional District will soon choose a new representative after the House voted to expel Republican Rep. George Santos on Friday by a 311-114 margin, with 105 Republicans joining 206 Democrats to eject the scandal-plagued freshman. 112 Republicans and two Democrats voted against ousting Santos, while two other Democrats voted "present."

This Long Island-based constituency, which includes northern Nassau County and a small portion of Queens, supported Joe Biden 54-45 in 2020, and Santos' infamy could drag down the eventual Republican nominee.

However, the GOP is hoping a fresh face will give them the chance to hold on in a region that has swung their way since Biden's inauguration. Republicans flipped the Nassau County executive and district attorney posts in 2021, while Bloomberg's Greg Giroux reports that Republican Lee Zeldin carried the district 56-44 last year against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul. Republicans also performed well in local elections last month.

Democrats will have a chance to reverse that trend—and flip this seat—when the special election to replace Santos takes place in February. A 2021 state law gives Hochul 10 days to call a special election once a seat becomes vacant, and the contest must happen 70 to 80 days afterward. That points to an election on either Feb. 20 or 27.

However, there won't be any primaries beforehand. Rather, it will be up to local leaders in each party to pick their nominees, with Nassau holding sway since it's home to three-quarters of the 3rd's denizens, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. But anyone hoping to win a full two-year term in the next Congress will have to compete in the regularly scheduled primary, which is set for June 25.

We probably won't need to wait long to learn who each side will pick for the special. Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and Nassau County Democratic parties, tells Politico that the party's nominee will be announced on Tuesday. Jewish Insider's Joe Cairo also reports that Nassau GOP head Joe Cairo "is likely to announce his pick shortly after the date of the election is called."

A trio of notable Democrats were already running to take on Santos before he was expelled: former Rep. Tom Suozzi, a longtime Nassau County politician who represented the prior version of this seat from 2017 to 2023; former state Sen. Anna Kaplan; and Gramercy Surgery Center CEO Austin Cheng.

Suozzi may have the inside track for the nomination due to his ties to Democratic power brokers. Politico reported in October that Suozzi has a stake in four summer camps owned by Jacobs; Suozzi also spent six years serving alongside both Fifth District Rep. Greg Meeks, who runs the Queens party, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who will likely have some influence over the nomination process.

Suozzi, though, is by no means universally beloved by Democrats. The former congressman left his seat behind last year to wage a disastrous primary bid against Hochul, in which he took just 13 percent of the vote statewide. Kaplan greeted Suozzi's October comeback launch by declaring, "After almost a year of this district having embarrassing representation, Tom Suozzi thinks voters on Long Island have forgotten that he abandoned us to George Santos."

And while Suozzi has long identified as a supporter of reproductive rights, his detractors have focused on his opposition to allowing Medicaid to pay for abortions—a policy known as the Hyde Amendment that disproportionately impacts women of color. Kaplan has also made an issue of a 2006 Suozzi plan to reduce abortions by, among other things, promoting abstinence education, a plan that NARAL Pro-Choice New York slammed at the time.

Things are more uncertain on the Republican side, where none of the declared candidates have much electoral experience. Mike Sapraicone led fellow businessman Kellen Curry $520,000 to $244,000 in cash on hand at the end of September, while a pair of self-funders, Air Force veteran Greg Hach and businessman Daniel Norber, were behind with $150,000 and $117,000, respectively.

However, there's a good chance that the eventual GOP nominee in the special election won't be any of these four men. Republican leaders have spent months talking about fielding state Sen. Jack Martins, who lost to Suozzi by a 53-47 margin in 2016, when this seat was last open. Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip has also been the subject of much GOP chatter in recent days, though it's also possible that another person will step forward and win over local party leaders.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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