Voters began casting their ballots Saturday in the high-stakes special election to fill the seat in New York’s Third Congressional District left vacant by the expulsion of Geroge Santos from the House of Representatives.
Former Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi and Republican Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip are facing off in a Feb. 13 special election, which could determine the balance of power in the House with Republicans clinging to a tiny majority.
Santos was tossed out of Congress in December after he was found to have repeatedly lied to voters, then later indicted on 21 federal charges and found to have committed numerous violations by the House Ethics Committee.
Early voting for New York’s Third Congressional District, which encompasses the western part of Long Island’s North Shore and a section of northeastern Queens, began on Saturday and will run through Feb. 11, with Election Day scheduled for Feb. 13.
Polling locations and times vary, but a full list of the Nassau County early voting locations can be found on the county’s Board of Elections website.
Nassau County polling locations on Election Day will be open from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Registered voters can find their assigned polling place through the state’s Board of Election’s website.
Queens early voting and Election Day polling locations can be found on the New York City Board of Elections website.
The candidates: Suozzi v. Mazi
Although an abbreviated campaign of about 10 weeks will pre-date the election, the race for New York’s Third Congressional District has heated up between the two candidates and drawn national attention with the party divide in Congress near an even split.
Suozzi, who describes himself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat, represented the 3rd Congressional District over three terms in the House from January 2017 to January 2023. He previously served as the Nassau County executive from 2002-2009 and the mayor of Glen Cove from 1994-2001 – the start of his political career.
Republican Pilip is a Nassau County legislator representing the county’s 10th District in her second term. She began serving in the position in 2022.
Prior to her political career, Pilip, who was born in Ethiopia before immigrating to Israel at the age of 12 where she served as a gunsmith in the Israeli Defense Force.
Coming to the forefront of the campaign is the Senate’s national security deal, which provides funding to secure the southern border as well as aid to Israel and Ukraine.
Pilip called the new Senate proposal a “nonstarter” that fails to secure the border and disagreed with the lumping in of aid to Israel and Ukraine as part of the act. She referred to the deal as “the legalization of the invasion of our country.”
Suozzi, who applauded the deal in its bipartisan efforts and expressed his support, criticized Pilip for what he called a parroting of the Republican Party’s extremists who oppose the deal.
He said this is done to appease former President Donald Trump, who opposes the measure to prevent a re-election win for President Joseph Biden, but ultimately harms the American people.
The campaign has brought an emphasis on transparency by the Democrat, who said it stems from being in a “post-Santos world.” This references the series of lies told by the former congressman and the distrust his constituents had for the novice politician.
This push for transparency has bled into Suozzi’s repeated calls for debates with his opponent, but the Republican has accepted only one. He has been critical of his opponent and her lack of willingness to debate or hold public forums throughout the campaign.
While the candidates have singled out similar issues for their campaigns to address, the two have differed in their solutions.
Suozzi’s 10-point plan includes addressing inflation and rising prices, tackling the influx of migrants by securing the border and streamlining processing, protecting the environment and bolstering public safety.
Pilip’s 10- point plan includes fixing President Biden’s “failing economy,” securing the southern border, getting tough on crime and conserving suburban environments.
Both candidates advocate for the reintroduction of the state and local tax deduction program known as SALT as well as for full backing of Israel in the fight against Hamas.
Suozzi and Pilip had also both expressed their support of reproductive rights, but Pilip in a recent interview with CNN agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to undo Roe v. Wade and did not respond to whether or not she would seek to codify the ruling. She has previously said she does not support a federal ban on abortions.
While both candidates have advocated for the securing of the United States border, they have differed on other issues concerning immigration and in their support of the recently proposed bipartisan National Security Agreement, hammered out by Senate Democrats and Republicans.
In a PIX11 interview, Suozzi said the border needs to be closed temporarily to stop the incoming migrants for a period of time, calling for a bipartisan answer to address the issue. He said a path to citizenship is important.
He had proposed a solution to the crisis in a previous op-ed he wrote with former U.S. Rep. Peter King for a migrant processing facility to be built at the border akin to Ellis Island to streamline processing and keep the border secure.
In the same forum with PIX11, Pilip said a wall needs to be built, more border agents need to be hired and asylum standards to be made more strict.
While calling for stricter asylum-seeking standards, Pilip also said immigration processing must be streamlined and foster a path to citizenship.
Pilip in the PIX11 interview said she would support Trump if he is the Republican nominee in the November presidential election, but not if he is convicted of any of the criminal charges he faces.
The Republican then said in a later interview with CNN that the 91-count indictment against Trump is politically motivated and she does not believe he is guilty of the crimes.
With the special election just nine months before another election for the same office in November, Suozzi said that if he wins, he will run again for his old seat.