New York party activists make final campaign push before pivotal House special election

Republicans and Democrats made a final push Monday to bring their voters to the polls in a closely watched New York special election to replace the expelled former GOP Rep. George Santos.

Republican Mazi Pilip, a Nassau County legislator, and Democrat Tom Suozzi, a former three-term House lawmaker who previously represented the district, called on their voters to come out for them on Tuesday.

A win by Ms. Philip, the GOP newcomer, would give House Republican leaders slightly more breathing room with their paper-thin majority. It could also signal whether illegal immigration is hurting President Biden’s party in the presidential election year; the New York region has been inundated with migrants.

The election of a new lawmaker in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, encompassing Nassau County and northeastern Queens, will mark the end of a nearly one-year saga after a report released in December by the House Ethics Committee found “overwhelming evidence” that Mr. Santos had broken the law numerous times and misused his office for personal profit.

Since Mr. Santos’ exit, the GOP has held a slim majority in the House, 219-212, with four vacancies, so passing key measures, such as an impeachment resolution of Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and short-term spending bills, has been an uphill battle.

Under New York state election law, district party bosses immediately went to work to select their respective candidates following the historic expulsion, only the sixth in congressional history.

Republicans and conservative parties chose Ms. Pilip, while Democrats selected Mr. Suozzi, who left Congress in 2022 to launch a failed gubernatorial primary bid against Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Mr. Suozzi is well known throughout the district and, prior to his congressional term, served as mayor of Glen Cove and was later elected Nassau County executive.

Ms. Pilip is Ethiopian-born and emigrated to Israel with her family as a child during a rescue operation. She served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a gunsmith in a paratrooper unit and emigrated to the U.S. in 1991. She and her Ukrainian-born husband, a cardiologist, have seven children.

The candidates faced off against one another on Friday during the only debate of the brief campaign, sparring about abortion, immigration and firearms.

Ms. Pilip would not say if she would ban semi-automatic firearm rifles such as AR-15s, but said she does not “see any reason why average American or individual should have more powerful weapons than our cops.”

She also said guns should be kept out of the hands of people with mental issues or criminal records and who are suspected terrorists. She said she supports training, background checks and waiting periods.

Mr. Suozzi was faced with having to defend his decision to kick Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents out of Nassau County when he was county executive in 2007.

A video clip, which the GOP has turned into a campaign ad, has been circulating of the former congressman during a 2022 gubernatorial debate in which he boasted about removing the ICE officers.

The New York Democrat said that ICE hadn’t been following the rules, and the police commissioner asked him to handle it.

“[The police commissioner] said, ‘I can’t work with these guys.’ So my police commissioner asked me to stop working with ICE. Would you deny your police commissioner?” Mr. Suozzi said.

“Let me tell you,” Ms. Pilip replied, “as a county executive, you are in charge of this county. It doesn’t matter what the commissioner will tell you. In the end, you make that decision.”

Mr. Suozzi said that when he was in the House in 2018, he was one of only 18 Democrats who voted to support ICE.

Republicans are betting that the migrant crisis and recent criminal events related to the migrants in New York City have been bringing their supporters to the polls since Saturday, and will make a final big push on Tuesday. However, Democrats have greatly outraised and outspent the GOP in this race.

According to federal records, Ms. Pilip has raised more than $1.3 million between Dec. 16 to Jan. 24, while Mr. Suozzi raised $4.5 million.

Both parties have bought ads up through Tuesday. Spending on the special election has already surpassed 2022’s general election total.

Media tracking service Ad Impact said Democrats have outspent Republicans on advertising in the district by a six-to-one ratio.

However, in the 2022 general election, when Mr. Santos won, Democratic advertisers outspent Republican advertisers at a 7:1 ratio: $3.9 million to $560,000, according to Ad Impact.

There are roughly 571,000 voters registered in the district.

The current district map is part of why polling between the two candidates is considered tight.

In 2022, a New York court rejected a map as unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the Democrat majority-led state legislature, and a court-appointed special master drew up a more competitive 3rd District.

Last year, though, New York’s highest court ordered the congressional maps to be redrawn again for the 2024 election, so the 3rd District lines will likely differ in the near future.

According to the Associated Press, the shortest, most direct path to victory would be to win in Nassau County. The larger the win in the county, the more difficult it is for the trailing candidate to win the overall district.

Mr. Suozzi would likely need to win by a massive margin in Queens to make up for even a small lead by Ms. Pilip in Nassau.

An automatic recount will be triggered if the vote margin is equal to or less than 0.5 percentage points.

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