Suozzi defeats Pilip in special election

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Democrat Tom Suozzi will return to Congress, having defeated Mazi Pilip, a registered Democrat who ran on the Republican ticket, in a special election on Tuesday for the 3rd Congressional District. The election for the U.S. House seat was held after Republican George Santos was expelled from Congress late last year. The race was called Tuesday night, with Suozzi having 55% of the vote, and Pilip, 45%.

In this high-stakes, eight-week campaign leading up to Tuesday – when turnout may have been impacted by a snowstorm – the election saw the district flip blue. The race was closely watched across the nation as it gears up for the presidential election in November.

Suozzi’s campaign had focused on bipartisanship.

“We addressed the issues, and we found a way to bind our divisions,” Suozzi told supporters at his election night party at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

Pilip, a second-term Nassau County legislator from Great Neck, conceded the race Tuesday night and said she congratulated Suozzi in a phone call.

“Yes we lost, but it doesn’t mean we are going to end here,” Pilip told supporters at her election watch party.

The unusual midwinter election became necessary after Santos was ousted by his colleagues in December, partway through his first term.

Santos won office in what had been a reliably Democratic district partly by falsely portraying himself as an American success story — a son of working class immigrants who made himself into a wealthy Wall Street dealmaker. But many elements of Santos’ life story were later exposed as fabrications, and he was indicted on multiple charges including allegations he stole money from Republican donors. He has pleaded not guilty.

With no time for a primary before the special election, Democrats nominated Suozzi, a political centrist well known to voters in the district.

Republican leaders turned to Pilip, a relatively unknown candidate with a unique personal backstory. Born in Ethiopia, she migrated to Israel as part of Operation Solomon and served in Israel’s defense forces before eventually moving to the U.S. and winning a seat as a Nassau legislature in 2021.

Suozzi had represented the district for three terms before giving it up to run, unsuccessfully, in a gubernatorial primary.

It’s unclear how long his next stint on Capitol Hill will last, as a redistricting process unfolds that could reshape the district. But for now the result narrows the already slim Republican majority in the House. And it provides Democrats a much-needed win in New York City’s Long Island suburbs, where the GOP showed surprising strength in recent elections.

Suozzi stressed his campaign trail theme of bipartisan cooperation in a victory speech that was briefly interrupted by protestors criticizing his support of Israel.

“There are divisions in our country where people can’t even talk to each other. All they can do is yell and scream at each other,” he said, acknowledging the demonstrators. “That’s not the answer to the problems we face in our country. The answer is to try and bring people together to try and find common ground.”

“The way to make our country a better place is to try and find common ground. It is not easy to do. It is hard to do,” he said.

Suozzi’s win will likely reassure Democrats that they can perform well in suburban communities across the nation, which will be critical to the party’s efforts to retake control of the U.S. House and reelect President Joe Biden.

Still, forecasting for November could be complicated given that turnout, already expected to be low given the abbreviated race, was potentially hampered by a storm that dumped several inches of snow on the district on election day. Both campaigns offered voters free rides to the polls as plows cleared wet slush from the roads.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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