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Feb 14

Suozzi Defeats Pilip in NY Special Election

| Published
Feb 13, 2024
| Updated
Feb 14, 2024
Suozzi Defeats Pilip in NY Special Election
(Left) Tom Suozzi in Westbury, N.Y., on Feb. 13, 2024. (Right) Mazi Pilip in Massapequa, N.Y., on Feb. 13, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Democrat Tom Suozzi defeated Republican Mazi Pilip in a New York special Congressional election viewed as a bellwether for the 2024 contests and a referendum on how the illegal immigration crisis and crime can impact close races.

Suozzi will fill the seat vacated by former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who was expelled from Congress following a months-long scandal over the veracity of his statements on the campaign trail and a federal indictment. New York’s governor Kathy Hochul scheduled a special election days after the expulsion.

Santos represented Congressional District 3, which encompasses Nassau County and parts of Eastern Queens, including Whitestone, Beechhurst, Douglaston, and Little Neck.

However, according to conservative pundit and election analyst Henry Olsen, former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) is well outperforming the Democrat Mr. Santos beat in 2022, Robert Zimmerman. If this holds, Mr. Suozzi will win after Nassau County reports its results.
GOP candidate Mazi Pilip has a shot, posted Mr. Olsen, depending “on how many registered Nassau Democrats voted for her.” Additionally, Ms. Pilip needs to win approximately 5 percent of an estimated remaining 143,000 ballots in Queens in order to “break even,” according to Mr. Olsen.
Jackson Richman

Suozzi Supporters in Good Spirits Awaiting Results

Supporters of Democratic candidate, former Rep.Tom Suozzi, were in high spirits as election results from New York’s 3rd Congressional District were beginning to come in, and the results appeared in a live CNN broadcast in the grand second-floor ballroom in the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, New York.

In spite of the blustery weather, Suozzi supporters made it to the polls in force on Tuesday to give the former 3rd District representative and former Glen Cove mayor an edge over GOP challenger Mazi Pilip.

The excitement in the ballroom was palpable as the announcement came that the candidate would arrive around 11 p.m. to speak to the crowd.

The crowd was united in their ardent support for a familiar face in Long Island and Democratic politics whose slogan “Let’s Fix This” was meant to assuage those concerned about the Democrats’ leadership in dealing with the border crisis.

“New York State of Mind” played on the loudspeakers.

Michael Washburn

Polls Closed

Polls have closed for the special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District to fill the seat of expelled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.). It was expected to be a close race between former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Nassau County GOP legislator Mazi Pilip.
—Jackson Richman

‘Check the Box’

Diane Steiner, an accountant from Syosset, is at the Suozzi event at the local country club. She met former President Donald Trump in the 1980s. She believes that Republicans have played their own kind of “check the box” politics with the nomination of Mazi Pilip, whose IDF record she says has been grossly exaggerated.

Steiner said she is appalled at the corruption that George Santos got away with for so long.

Diane Steiner in Syosset, New York, on February 13, 2024. (Juliette Fairley/The Epoch Times)
Diane Steiner in Syosset, New York, on February 13, 2024. (Juliette Fairley/The Epoch Times)

“I am amazed at the amount of money from Santos and PACs connected to him and how the money went all over Nassau and Suffolk County politics.”

Still, she believes Democrats gave Santos a free ride when they had many weeks to investigate his claims.

—Michael Washburn

Suozzi Acknowledges Voter Changes to NY-03

WESTBURY, N.Y.—Hours before the polls were to close, former Democrat Rep. Tom Suozzi told reporters that New York’s 3rd Congressional District has changed since he left on Jan. 3, 2023.

“People care about immigration. They care about taxes. They care about crime,” he said. “They care about public safety, and I’ve addressed those issues throughout this campaign because I know that’s what the people care about.”

Mr. Suozzi said that people are fed up with lawmakers not solving these issues.

In emphasizing these issues, he even avoided giving a direct answer to whether the results will be known by tonight.

“My main concern about cost of living and inflation, people worried about making ends meet, is to get the state and local tax deduction passed,” he said.

Finally, Mr. Suozzi blasted his GOP opponent, Mazi Pilip, for what he called being opaque, going so far as to say she is the second version of her predecessor, former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)—even though Ms. Pilip has been a sharp critic of the expelled congressman.

“She wouldn’t do any debates until one debate five days before the election. She wouldn’t do town hall meetings. She wouldn’t appear with me in any public forums,” he said.

“And we still don’t even know what her positions are on major issues like choice, like guns, like the immigration crisis,” Mr. Suozzi said.

“We just don’t know where she really stands. She has no plans. She has no specifics.”

Jackson Richman, Juliette Fairley

Suozzi Calls Pilip ‘Santos 2.0’

WESTBURY, N.Y.—Former Democrat Rep. Tom Suozzi said on Tuesday that his opponent for New York’s 3rd Congressional District is just a copy of the Republican she’s hoping to replace.

“She is Santos 2.0. We don’t really know anything about her,” he said of Republican Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip at a press conference at his Westbury campaign office.

Almost immediately after former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) was elected to Congress in 2022, it was revealed that he had fabricated aspects of his resume. He was expelled from the House in December amid further allegations that he defrauded his supporters.

Mr. Suozzi, pointing to Ms. Pilip’s performance in the race’s lone debate last week, said it remains unclear where the Israeli Defense Forces veteran stands on the issues.

“She won’t stand up and say what she really believes in. It’s like she waffles all over the place. … In this time of transparency, after George Santos, when the voters really want to know exactly what you’re about, I don’t think that she’s told us what she’s exactly about.”

Ms. Pilip, a two-time immigrant, has zeroed in on border security as a defining issue of her campaign. She immigrated twice—once from Ethiopia to Israel and again from Israel to the United States.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, she pledged her support for efforts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Mr. Suozzi, on the other hand, opposes those efforts.

“I can guarantee you that most American people could care less about the impeachment of Mayorkas. It is so distant from what they care about,” he said.

“You know what they want? They want us to address the immigration problem that we face. They want us to address the cost of living. They want us … to work together to make people’s lives better. They are sick and tired of everybody just pointing fingers and getting nothing done.”

If elected, the Democrat said he would focus on “bringing people together” to solve those problems.

He also expressed optimism at the low voter turnout observed at polling places throughout the morning, noting that Democrats tend to vote either later in the day or prior to election day.

“If you look at history, the Republicans vote in the morning, and they’re not showing up. So, now we need the Democrats to show up in the afternoon. The way we’re going to do that is we’re going to keep on working and keep on walking.”

Samantha Flom, Juliette Fairley
Miles Grossman, 70, after voting for Tom Suozzi at Robert M. Finley Middle School on Election Day in Glen Cove, N.Y., on Feb. 13, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Miles Grossman, 70, after voting for Tom Suozzi at Robert M. Finley Middle School on Election Day in Glen Cove, N.Y., on Feb. 13, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Pilip: ‘This Election Is About Saving Our Country’

MASSAPEQUA, N.Y.—Republican congressional candidate Mazi Pilip told reporters on Tuesday that the stakes are high in the race to replace expelled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).

“This election is about saving our country,” she said at a press conference outside McKenna Elementary School.

Mr. Santos was ousted from the House in December amid federal charges of conspiracy and fraud, among others. When asked if his record might affect her support, Ms. Pilip said she was confident that voters across New York’s 3rd Congressional District would get behind her.

“George Santos is absolutely the past,” she said. “The issues are securing the border, controlling immigrants coming to our country to create a safe community, supporting law enforcement, and improving our economy.”

The GOP currently holds a small majority in the House. The difficulties associated with that fact were on full display last week amid Republicans’ failed attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. They are expected to try again on Tuesday.

Ms. Pilip, having made border security a pillar of her platform, said she would vote to impeach Mr. Mayorkas if given the opportunity.

“Hopefully, they’re not going to need my vote for that. But in case it doesn’t pass, when I go to Congress, I will support my colleagues, and we are going to impeach Mayorkas,” she said.

When pressed as to why, Ms. Pilip, an immigrant herself, held that the illegal immigration crisis plaguing the nation is entirely Mr. Mayorkas’s fault.

“He failed to protect the American people. He failed to protect our border. The reason why we have this migrant crisis is because of him. Therefore, we have to hold him accountable, and he has to go.”

Ms. Pilip also weighed in on the battle over supplemental national security funding, stating that she felt aid for Israel should be passed in its own bill.

“I do believe we need to have a separate bill when it comes to Israel because Israel is under serious attack by a terrorist organization, and [there] has to be no condition,” the Israeli Defense Forces veteran said. “We cannot link to the borders nor to Ukraine aid. We need to support Israel as soon as possible.”

Ms. Pilip added that she felt the United States should continue to support Ukraine in its war with Russia as well, provided that certain questions are answered.

“It has been almost two years. All we ask, we would like to know how the money has been spent. This is a legit question and we have the responsibility to ask those questions.”

—Samantha Flom, Juliette Fairley
Veronica Rojas after she voted at McKenna Elementary School in Massapequa, N.Y., on Feb. 13, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Veronica Rojas after she voted at McKenna Elementary School in Massapequa, N.Y., on Feb. 13, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Polling Places Empty as Storm Rages

WOODBURY VILLAGE, N.Y.—The trend of low voter turnout continued at Walt Whitman Elementary School in Woodbury, where the parking lot was nearly empty aside from the cars of election workers.

Inside, empty voting booths lined the back wall of the school gym, which looked more like a ghost town than a polling place.

The special election to replace ousted Republican Rep. George Santos is expected to be close, with former Democrat Rep. Tom Suozzi looking to reclaim the seat he lost a little over a year ago. Meanwhile, Republican Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip, an Ethiopian immigrant who served in the Israeli Defense Forces, is hoping to preserve the GOP’s slim majority in the House.

Thanks to the winter storm that rolled in overnight—and the subsequent closure of multiple polling locations—turnout is likely to sink lower than either candidate had hoped.

—Samantha Flom, Michael Washburn

Voters Brave Winter Storm

BELLEROSE, N.Y.—A powerful winter storm pummeled much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic Tuesday with heavy snowfall and blizzard-like conditions.

The classic nor’easter also brought strong winds and the potential for flooding up and down the coast on a crucial election day for voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional District.

Even on a good day, getting voters to the polls can be a challenge in a special election. And a storm certainly doesn’t help matters.

But for Lucia Vivianni, 87, this election was one she simply couldn’t miss.

“I would never miss it because I really want the person I voted for to win,” Ms. Vivianni told The Epoch Times.

The Bellerose, Queens, resident said she cast her ballot for Republican Mazi Pilip, whom she said would “bring good changes.”

“I vote more party because the other person I didn’t know too much about,” she said. “He’s from Nassau County. My brother lives there and I talked with him.”

The Democratic candidate in the race is Tom Suozzi, who held the congressional seat for three terms before being toppled by Republican Rep. George Santos in 2022.

Almost immediately after that election, Mr. Santos became the subject of controversy over his embellished resume. He was expelled from Congress in December amid additional allegations that he defrauded his supporters.

Marianne Schmidt, 73, said she braved the weather to vote for Mr. Suozzi because she felt Ms. Pilip was “too much like” Mr. Santos.

“It’s not a great day, but I wanted to do this,” she told The Epoch Times. “I should’ve done pre-voting.”

Ms. Schmidt said she was “definitely in favor” of Mr. Suozzi “after everything they went through with the last person.” Still, she said she could have done without all the phone calls, TV ads, and mailers from his campaign.

“I understand he had to do that, but enough.”

Meanwhile, Fazle Jamali, 81, said he chose Mr. Suozzi because “he says he’s with the people—the middle-class people. He says everything is equal here. Everybody has a right. The lady? I never saw her or know anything about her.”

Samantha Flom

Low Turnout at Polling Location

Robbins Lane Elementary School was the only normal voting site open of those listed on the Syosset Schools website. Election workers would not let The Epoch Times staff stay on site despite having a letter from the Nassau County Board of Elections on our phones.

Turnout at the school was very low with more election workers than voters on site. Both H.B. Thompson Middle School and Syosset High School were closed due to the harsh weather.

No cars were in the lots of the latter two schools and they were scenes of bleakness and desolation.

—Michael Washburn
Joseph Angelo voted at the Robbins Lane Elementary School in Syosset on Feb. 13, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Candidates Offer Rides to Polls Amid Storm

As a snowstorm bore down on New York on Tuesday, the two candidates vying for ousted Republican Rep. George Santos’s congressional seat mobilized to ensure voters could get to the polls for the special election.
“Need a ride to the polls? Be safe, click on the link below, and Team Suozzi will get you safely to and from the polls,” wrote Democratic candidate Tom Suozzi on his X account, sharing a link to an intake form.

Mr. Suozzi is looking to flip New York’s 3rd Congressional District back into the Democrats’ column amid the scandal surrounding Mr. Santos, who has been federally charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, credit card fraud, and more.

To do so, the candidate will have to defeat Republican Mazi Pilip, who has homed in on immigration as a key issue for her campaign as the city struggles to cope with a massive influx of illegal immigrants from the U.S.–Mexico border.

Amid the storm, which is expected to dump up to half a foot of snow on the city, Ms. Pilip’s campaign was also offering rides to the polls early on Tuesday.

“There’s too much at stake in this election to stay home. Team Mazi is offering free rides to voting locations,” she wrote on X, listing a phone number and a link to her website.

Polls will remain open until 9 p.m.

—Samantha Flom
Robbins Lane Elementary School in Syosset on Feb. 13, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Robbins Lane Elementary School in Syosset on Feb. 13, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Fazle Jamali, 81, and his wife Maafisa, 68, in New York on Feb. 13, 2024. (Juliette Fairley/The Epoch Times)
Fazle Jamali, 81, and his wife Maafisa, 68, in New York on Feb. 13, 2024. (Juliette Fairley/The Epoch Times)

Major Snowstorm Endangers Turnout

NEW YORK—Voters of Nassau County and some parts of Queens will decide the fates on Feb. 13 of Congressional candidates Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi as well as set the political tone nationwide for November’s general election.

However, a major winter storm that includes snow and rain is expected to seriously curtail voter turnout.

The National Weather Service predicts up to 10 inches of snow that may block streets in New York and Long Island.

Ms. Pilip, however, is undeterred. She urged her supporters last night at the North Valley Stream GOP Club in Franklin Square, New York, to get to the finish line.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s going to rain or snow, we can safely go out,” she said. “We’re going to encourage people safely to go to vote because we’re talking about saving our country.”

Electing Ms. Pilip or Mr. Suozzi to represent Congressional District 3 (CD-3) will further define the balance of power in Congress for the next nine months and help both political parties identify campaign strategies for the presidential elections in November.

Currently, there are 212 Democrat members of Congress, 219 Republicans, and four vacant seats.

“Let’s look to the results of this race,” Mr. Suozzi said at a Feb. 11 press conference in his Plainview campaign headquarters.

“Does my message of working together and finding common ground carry the day or does her message  ’my way or the highway extremism' same as Mike Johnson and Donald Trump’s?”

Early Votes

More than 57,000 voters cast ballots in Nassau County during the early voting period, according to the Nassau County Board of Elections. Of the total, 42 percent were Democrats, 34 percent were Republicans, and 20 percent were unaffiliated with a major party.

The special election came about after it was discovered that disgraced former Congressman George Santos (R-N.Y.) embellished his resume, lied about his religious affiliation, allegedly violated federal law and reportedly participated in identity theft and improper campaign reports.

Although he was elected fair and square, Congress removed Mr. Santos on Dec. 1, 2023, and on Dec. 5, 2023, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul scheduled a special election for Feb. 13.

The election is not only special but also unusual because it’s taking place in the middle of winter, according to Phil Orenstein, president of the Queens Village Republican Club. He said he has never promoted an election in the snow in the 20 years he’s been campaigning,

“Special elections happen whenever they happen but not often during the winter months,” Mr. Orenstein told The Epoch Times. “The primaries are in June, and the general election is in November, and the weather’s pretty good. Once it was raining but the turnout was good even in the rain.”

Democrat candidate Tom Suozzi greets a supporter in front of Tony's Beechurst Deli in Whitestone, Queens, on Feb. 10, 2024. (Courtesy of Juliette Fairley)
Democrat candidate Tom Suozzi greets a supporter in front of Tony's Beechurst Deli in Whitestone, Queens, on Feb. 10, 2024. (Courtesy of Juliette Fairley)

Areas of Queens Village that are in District 3 include Little Neck, New Hyde Park, and Douglaston.

A Newsday/Siena College poll found that 49 percent think Ms. Pilip will do a better job “addressing the migrant influx” compared to Mr. Suozzi’s 40 percent. But when asked who would do better at “protecting our democracy,” 49 percent named Mr. Suozzi compared to 40 percent who named Ms. Pilip. The poll was conducted between Feb. 3 and Feb. 6

“The country is just falling apart under Biden, so people are very motivated to vote for Mazi,” Mr. Orenstein added.

“Some of the voters I’ve spoken to plan to put their snow shoes on and get out there.”

Currently, the weather forecast includes rain and snow, which is likely to impede the momentum of both candidates.

Last night, the National Weather Service upgraded its forecast to a winter storm warning.

Despite the snow, Democrats plan to be in the streets getting their votes out for Mr. Suozzi, according to Nassau County Democrat Chairman Jay Jacobs.

“Our vote tends to come in heavier in the afternoon, and it looks like the weather will clear by then, so that’s good for us,” Mr. Jacobs told The Epoch Times.

“The Republican vote comes in heavy in the morning, which isn’t good for them. Another thing that’s not good for them is that a lot of their workers are supposed to be knocking on doors but should be sitting in plow and sanding trucks.”

New York City public schools are closed in all five boroughs, including Queens.

Some public schools in Nassau County are also closed.

“As we do for every weather event, our great men and women of our Department of Public Works will be out early this morning,” Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman told The Epoch Times.

“They will be doing what they have to do. The roads will be clear and you'll be able to exercise your right to vote here in Nassau County.”

GOP candidate Mazi Pilip (2nd L)  celebrates at a rally in Franklin Square, N.Y. with from left, Nassau County GOP Chair Joe Cairo, Lee Zeldin, former Congressman Peter King, and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman on Feb. 12, 2024. (Courtesy of Juliette Fairley)
GOP candidate Mazi Pilip (2nd L)  celebrates at a rally in Franklin Square, N.Y. with from left, Nassau County GOP Chair Joe Cairo, Lee Zeldin, former Congressman Peter King, and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman on Feb. 12, 2024. (Courtesy of Juliette Fairley)

The town of Oyster Bay has put out salt and sand, according to Republican Supervisor Joseph Saladino.

“It’s about making sure the streets are safe and that we plow every road so that no matter what community you’re from and no matter who you’re voting for, you can get to the polls safely,” Mr. Saladino told The Epoch Times.

Although inclement weather doesn’t help either party in an election, former Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.) believes Republican candidates locked in a tight race outperform Democrats when there’s bad weather.

“We have 2,000 committeemen,” Mr. King told The Epoch Times.

“We have a strong organization, and that has to mean at least a few votes in every election district, but you'd rather not have the snow. It’s a gamble.”