Feb 7, 2024 - Politics & Policy

What to know about the special election to replace George Santos

George Santos raises his right hand while speaking

George Santos, the now former New York congressman, speaks at a meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 19, 2022. Photo: David Becker for the Washington Post

Early voting has started in a special election to replace the embattled former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) in the Empire State's 3rd congressional district.

Why it matters: The key swing seat, which opened up following Santos' expulsion, has become a top target for Democrats and could impact the House's Republican majority.

  • Early voting began on Saturday, and Election Day is slated for Feb. 13. The district includes parts of Queens and Long Island's Nassau County.

Why is there a special election?

  • The House voted in December to expel Santos from Congress over his many fabrications on the 2022 campaign trail and his two federal indictments.
  • This opened up the need for a special election, as state law required New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to proclaim the unusual race within 10 days of Santos' seat becoming vacant.

Who's running?

  • New York Republicans nominated Mazi Melesa Pilip as the party's candidate in December, while New York Democrats chose former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.).
  • Pilip was born in Ethiopia and emigrated to Israel when she was 12, serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and attending college and graduate school there before moving to the United States with her American husband, Axios' April Rubin and Andrew Solender report.
  • Pilip — a registered Democrat for over a decade — was elected as a GOP Nassau County legislator in 2021, flipping a Democratic seat. She was re-elected in 2023. In both elections, she ran as a Republican, Politico reported.

Suozzi represented the state's 3rd congressional district from 2017 to 2023.

  • He vacated the seat to run for governor, though he ran an unsuccessful campaign against Hochul in 2022.

What's at stake?

  • The seat, which has flip-flopped between parties, is one that New York Democrats hope to reclaim.
  • Santos had flipped the seat to Republican when he won in 2022 following Suozzi's prior win as a Democrat.

The empty seat has also made the House's slim Republican majority even smaller.

  • Republicans have a narrow lead over Democrats in the House, at 219-212 with four current vacancies, including Santos' spot.

What do the district's voters care most about?

  • Among the 3rd congressional district, 26% of voters marked immigration as the most important issue facing the state, while 22% included the economy, according to an Emerson College poll in January.
  • Crime and housing affordability followed behind, at 15% and 12%, respectively.

Go deeper: Rep. George Santos expelled from Congress in historic vote

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