Just days before early voting began for New York’s Third Congressional District special election, Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi hashed out their stances, sometimes agreeing with one another while still delivering jabs at their opponent.
Former congressman Suozzi and Nassau County District 10 Legislator Pilip are facing off in a Feb. 13 special election to finish out the term of Republican Rep. George Santos, who was expelled from the House.
In a PIX11 forum hosted Tuesday night, Pilip and Suozzi were interviewed separately and asked questions regarding the district’s top issues.
PIX11 conducted a poll of constituents’ top issues, which found that immigration, economy and crime were the top three with abortion taking the fourth spot.
Pilip blamed Biden and Suozzi for opening the southern border and the ensuing migrant crisis.
“We have millions coming to this country, illegal, we don’t know if they are criminals, we don’t know if they are terrorists, unvetted migrants coming in and it’s really, we are in a serious issue,” Pilip said. “We don’t have no plan, no place for them.”
Both Suozzi and Pilip called for the closing of the southern border but provided different solutions to the issue.
Suozzi said the border needs to be closed temporarily to stop the incoming migrants for a period of time, calling for a bipartisan solution to address the issue.
He has proposed a solution to the crisis in a previous op-ed he wrote with Peter King, calling for a migrant processing facility to be built at the border akin to Ellis Island.
Pilip said the 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 needs to be streamlined and foster a path to citizenship.
“I am an immigrant, as I said, my husband is an immigrant. I want immigrants to come to this country. I want them to live the American dream the way I live the American dream,” Pilip said. “But it has to be done correctly.”
New York’s Third Congressional District encompasses both Queens and Nassau counties, but only the Queens portion has provided housing for migrants. When asked if Nassau County should, Pilip said she stands with County Executive Bruce Blakeman against the county housing them.
When asked what should be done to address the influx of migrants already in the country, Pilip continued that the border needs to be secured before talks on addressing the situation can occur.
“How we can even talk about fixing what’s happening here before we shut down the border and closing the border,” Pilip said.
With a bipartisan Congressional bill proposed that would lump foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine as well as secure the border with bolstered security measures, Suozzi expressed his support for such a deal.
The national security deal lumping the three issues together was applauded by Suozzi for its bipartisan compromises.
“It can’t be my way or the highway,” Suozzi said. “People have got to work together to solve these problems and a bipartisan compromise is the only way to move forward.”
Pilip, on the other hand, said all three issues in the national security bill should be done separately.
While Suozzi said both aid to Israel and Ukraine should be unconditional, Pilip advocated for unconditional support for Israel yet not for Ukraine. She said the United States should be supporting Ukraine but it is necessary to know how Ukraine is spending the money first.
In the wake of three American soldiers being killed in Jordan by a drone strike linked to Iran, Pilip was asked whether the United States should attack Iran.
Her response danced around the question, not saying whether it should or should not be done but that it should be thought over in depth.
Suozzi called Iran a “bad actor” but that a military response should be deciphered by military professionals and personnel. Although he did not advocate for a military response, he said troops should remain in the region.
Suozzi said a main focus of his campaign is the SALT program, which Pilip said she is also in favor of reintroducing, but the Democrat questioned why other Long Island Representatives, who are all Republicans, have said the same and yet not done anything.
“I did it three times in the House of Representatives,” Suozzi said. “They haven’t done it once. They’re in the majority – pass it.”
When asked if he would raise taxes on the wealthy to support the middle class, Suozzi said he would make a deal to bring back SALT by increasing taxes on the top rate for individuals making more than $400,000 annually.
Suozzi said if elected, he would seek out long-term budget deals but would seek out solutions to avoid government shutdowns.
Pilip echoed these sentiments, saying she would work for a “good deal” when drafting the budget, which will face votes in March and will include the newly elected congress member.
Suozzi criticized the current federal government for not addressing the real issues of the American people, citing examples of its dysfunction.
“Something’s wrong with our country,” Suozzi said. “And people are sick and tired of people just pointing fingers at each other instead of trying to work together.”
He touted his bipartisan efforts when previously serving as a congressman, saying that he would continue to seek out solutions while working across the aisle if elected to serve in his former post.
“Every problem we face in the country and in the world is complicated. Nothing is simple,” Suozzi said. “And to solve problems you can’t solve them in an environment of fear and anger with everybody just attacking each other.”
Suozzi attacked his Republican opponent, saying that unlike him she does not have specific ideas to back her policy stances.
“She is just using Republican talk points, going to Republican rallies and not talking to the people directly,” Souzzi said.
He went on to question why Pilip has not engaged in debates or forums, especially so in the wake of Santos and the issues of transparency and blatant lies to constituents that contributed to his expulsion from the House.
With a presidential election coming this November, Pilip said she would support the Republican candidate even if it is Donald Trump, but not if he is convicted of a crime he has been indicted for.
“He was a great candidate, a great president,” Pilip said. “He did great things for America. He improved our economy.”
Suozzi said if he wins in February, he would also run in November to take hold of the seat for a full term.