‘We don’t have a member of Congress:’ Israel on Santos

‘We don’t have a member of Congress:’ Israel on Santos
George Santos celebrating his victory in the state's 3rd Congressional District election. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

Since Rep. George Santos took office Jan. 3, local government officials say the district he represents essentially has not had a representative at all.

Santos was elected as the District 3 member of Congress in November, beating out Democrat Robert Zimmerman, and soon after was caught in a web of state and federal probes into his personal, professional and financial background. An expose in The New York Times in December revealed that much of his resume included false claims that misrepresented often non-existent achievements, and more falsehoods have continuously surfaced since then.

Despite being outed for his lies, Santos announced Monday he is running for re-election in 2024 in the district, which straddles Nassau and Queens counties.

With calls for his expulsion amid an investigation by the House Ethics Committee as well as federal probes and state reviews, local officials have said he does not represent the ideals of the district and is not serving them as a representative.

Steve Israel, former District 3 congressman from 2013-2017, said the major part of the work that his office did was constituent casework.

“There’s an assumption that a member of Congress spends most of his or her time legislating,” Israel said. “That is a misassumption. The real work of a member of Congress is spent at home solving people’s problems.”

Due to the historical representation in District 3 and the prioritization of constituent casework, Israel said that had fostered an expectation of those services.

“New Yorkers are pretty demanding people,” Israel said jokingly. “They expect a member of Congress who’s going to work for them and work hard.”

Today, with George Santos now representing District 3, that is gone.

“We don’t have a member of Congress right now,” Israel said.

He said that instead of having a representative who is working for their district, Santos is more concerned with the legal ramifications of his actions.

“This is a massive disservice and it’s aggravating for me because we worked so hard to deliver and now we have a member of Congress who is consumed, not with the problems of those he represents, but his own legal problems,” Israel said.

Israel said he has never seen Santos working with constituents at public events.

“You can’t be a representative unless you are out in the community listening to people,” Israel said. “He’s hiding. How could you represent people when you’re afraid to go out and be seen by them?”

Israel said Santos presents three problems in his effectiveness as a representative: He can’t accurately represent his constituents if he doesn’t show up with them, constituents and their needs are not being accurately serviced and “he’s an anathema.”

Nobody in Congress is willing to work with him, which Israel said is crucial to being an effective representative.

“He’s 0-3 in effective representation,” Israel said.

Along with House members not wanting to work with him, other local officials share the same reluctance.

North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said she has had no contact with Santos since his lies were initially exposed in December.

Prior to then, she said she would see him at some events during his campaign, where she would have conversations with him.

“I believed all the lies that he told everyone else,” DeSena said. “Looking back, it’s hard to even know what he was at all because every single thing he said was a lie.”

DeSena has also called for his expulsion from Congress, alongside an issued statement from the Town Board.

“We’ve been very clear that we don’t consider him our elected representative and we are anxiously awaiting his resignation,” DeSena said.

In his first 100 days, Santos said he has received 238 constituent cases, of which 143 were solved, according to a press release from his office. Among those resolved, 49 cases were for the U.S. Department of State: National Passport Center and 24 cases were for the New York Passport Agency.

Santos also said he has introduced four pieces of legislation, including the Executive Mental Competency Protection Act, which requires the president to receive an annual comprehensive cognitive evaluation.

“Big deal,” Israel said. “How does that change someone’s life in the district? How does that improve their conditions? It doesn’t.”

But remedying the ramifications of having Santos in office and not representing his constituents to the degree they deserve is not an easy fix, Israel said.

He said there are three resolutions to address the issues of Santos and his failures of representation: Constituents vote him out of office in 2024, Santos decides to leave office before the end of his term or Congress members expel him from the house.

Israel said the likelihood of expelling him from Congress is slim to none. If he were to be expelled, a special election would need to be held and would cost millions of dollars. He said that with a Republican leader of the House, if they were to lose the race it would diminish the Republican’s “slim majority.”

Israel said there is no effective way to address this while waiting for one of these three options, which he said is the real tragedy.

“Mr. Santos either has to reach the judgment that he can’t effectively serve or his colleagues in Congress have to reach the judgment that after due process, they should consider expelling him,” Israel said.

In the meantime, DeSena said the Town is not reliant on the federal government and is leaning on the efforts of the Town and local initiatives. She said the Town has been advocating for more local control of zoning, environment and water supply as well as advocating for changes to the LIRR schedules.

“There are a lot of people working in government so we’re not so dependent on our congressional representative,” DeSena said.

She said U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has also been helpful as he has been present and active in working with the Town and incorporating them in federal initiatives.

“We’re very well represented by [Schumer],” DeSena said.

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