‘Unvetted, unprepared:’ Suozzi accuses Pilip of misleading voters

‘Unvetted, unprepared:’ Suozzi accuses Pilip of misleading voters
At a press conference Thrusday, Suozzi attacked his opponent for misleading voters about her stance on gun regulations and bans. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

As the campaign for New York’s Third Congressional District moves closer to Election Day, Democrat Tom Suozzi’s recent attacks against Republican Mazi Pilip’s public safety platform have criticized her for misleading voters in the race to replace a disgraced official.

“Mazi Pilip is hiding from the voters,” Suozzi said. “What’s worse she’s hiding where she stands on critical issues.”

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. He was expelled from Congress in December after he was found to have repeatedly lied to voters,  later indicted on 21 federal charges and found to have committed numerous violations by the House Ethics Committee.

Suozzi said Pilip has misled voters on her public safety stances, using what he called “deceptive language.”

An example Suozzi provided was a recent interview with PIX11 in which Pilip said she supports an assault weapons ban. Suozzi pointed out at a news conference Thursday that an automatic weapons ban already exists and the current political debate surrounding gun bans concerns semi-automatic weapons.

Semi-automatic weapons were banned in the United States in 1994 but the bill was not renewed after expiring in 2004. Many attempts have been made to reinstate the ban or similar legislation, including one introduced in the Senate in 2023, but none have been successful.

The Democrat criticized Pilip for parroting NRA talking points, which call for enforcing current gun laws and advocating against new, stricter ones.

“The bottom line is that my opponent is unvetted, unprepared and will make things worse,” Suozzi said. “And when it comes to gun safety, she’ll make us less safe.”

Pilip’s campaign spokesman Brian Devine said the Republican’s gun platform includes keeping illegal guns off the streets, strengthening background checks and mental health checks and reasonable waiting periods.

“She believes law-abiding citizens should have a route to have access to guns, but not automatic assault weapons,” Devine said.

Suozzi, on the other hand, said he does endorse a semi-automatic weapons ban, touting his “F” rating by the NRA. A tenet of his campaign is to protect individuals from gun violence through regulatory measures.

He said his approach to diminishing crime and gun violence is “common sense solutions,” advocating for universal background checks, funding for state record-sharing and preventing gun possession by people on the terror watch list all while preserving second amendment rights.

Suozzi has touted himself as being a middle-of-the-road Democrat who reaches across the aisle to find solutions. While he supports a semi-automatic weapons ban, his stance on public safety also encompasses supporting law enforcement in an effort to reduce crime.

In the wake of Pilip’s statement, Suozzi condemned the Republican in the current environment of a “post-Santos world” – one in which constituents have been lied to by their former representative.

“How is it possible that you could be so disrespectful of voters that you’re not being transparent?” Suozzi questioned. “That you’re not telling people exactly where you stand? How you’re not giving the ladies and gentlemen of the media an opportunity to question you and to find out what’s really going on in your position”

Suozzi continued comparing Pilip to Santos, equating her stance on gun safety to Santos’ wearing of an AR-15 pin and calling for it to be a national symbol.

“But she’s not even telling you that,” Suozzi said. “She’s trying to trick you.

Suozzi has been critical of Pilip’s unwillingness to debate during the short campaign period, calling her out for her lack of transparency and accountability.

“The only way our country is going to move forward is if people are forthright, transparent, give specific ideas and are willing to work across party lines to find solutions to the problems we face,” Suozzi said.

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