Mazi Melesa Pilip’s congressional dreams dashed in special election

Tom Suozzi wins special election, returns to the House of Representatives

‘Comeback kid of Nassau County’ reclaims seat for Democrats


After a contentious special election campaign, Tom Suozzi has won back his old seat in Congress.

The longtime politician, introduced by Jay Jacobs, chairman of the state’s Democratic Committee, as “the comeback kid of Nassau County,” took the stage at the Crest Hollow County Club in Woodbury on Tuesday night to the sound of thunderous applause, briefly basking in the glow of victory before thanking the crowd and emphasizing that he had won “because the people of Long Island and Queens are sick and tired of political bickering.”

“It’s time to move beyond the petty partisan bickering and the finger pointing,” Suozzi declared. “It’s time to find common ground, and start delivering for the people of the United States of America.”

The election, in which Suozzi captured 54 percent of the vote, easily defeating Republican County Legislator Mazi Pilip, was in the national spotlight as well, with President Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, and the likely Republican presidential nominee, former President Donald Trump, weighing in on Suozzi’s victory.

“Republicans just don’t learn,” Trump posted on election night on Truth Social, his social media platform. “I have an almost 99 percent endorsement success rate in primaries, and a very good number in the general elections, as well, but just watched this very foolish woman, Mazi Melesa Pilip, running in a race where she didn’t endorse me.”

In a statement, Rodriguez wrote, “Donald Trump lost again tonight. When Republicans run on Trump’s extreme agenda — even in a Republican-held seat — voters reject them.”
Suozzi addressed the contentious ads that ran during the campaign. Throughout the race, he and Mazi accused each other of lying in the ads, and Suozzi proudly declared that he won “despite all the lies about Tom Suozzi and the Squad, Tom Suozzi being the godfather of the migrant crisis, despite all the dirty tricks.”

Despite a vigorous campaign by Pilip, Suozzi’s election showed that the 3rd Congressional District is hoping for a return to normalcy following the tumultuous, and incomplete, term of George Santos.

Although at least two pro-Palestinian protesters attempted to condemn Suozzi for his support of Israel at his victory celebration, but the crowd drowned them out with shouts of “Suozzi! Suozzi!” The congressman later pointed to the protesters as an example of the divisions plaguing the district, and the country.

Many of his supporters said they backed him because of his record of delivering for voters and his ability to work across the aisle.

“Tom seems like he can actually get something done,” Ravin Chetram, of Oyster Bay, said. “He doesn’t lean either way. He’s not too progressive, so he can cross lines to the other side. We’ll have real representation for District 3.”

Others pointed to Suozzi’s long political career as the reason for their support. His name recognition, compared with the relatively unknown Pilip, appeared to have been one of the major factors in his re-election.

“I remember Tom when he was a great county executive,” Francine Goldstein, of Merrick, said. “He’s got a big heart and is a smart person.”

Throughout the race, Suozzi touted his decades of experience, and his ability to work with Republicans, as the qualities that made him best suited to fill his old seat.

Suozzi, who left Congress to challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in the 2022 gubernatorial race, but lost in the Democratic primary, pointed to his long career of fighting for local issues and environmental reforms, as well as his outspoken support for Israel and immigration reform.
Suozzi also emphasized during the campaign that he is a problem solver, and willing to work with anyone in Congress to get legislation passed. Whether he will succeed in a House more divided than ever along partisan lines remains to be seen.

“You won this race because we addressed the issues and found a way to bind our divisions,” he said Tuesday night. “There are divisions in our country where people can’t talk to each other, where they yell and scream. That’s not the answer. We need to find common ground.”

While this was Pilip’s first campaign for office beyond the County Legislature, she still made a strong showing, winning roughly 46 percent of the vote. A former member of the Israel Defense Forces, she sought to win over Jewish voters with her pro-Israel stance, while attempting to lay the blame for the migrant crisis at Suozzi’s feet, but her campaign may have been hurt by her refusal to participate in more than one debates with Suozzi, and her reliance instead on the Nassau County Republican Party.

That clearly wasn’t enough for a district still recovering from the misadventures of Santos. Pilip briefly addressed the crowd that had gathered to support her at the Lannin in East Meadow, conceding the race and emphasizing her determination to continue working for Long Island residents.

“We are fighters,” Pilip said. “Yes, we lost. But it doesn’t mean we’re going to end here. We’re going to continue to fight. I’m not going to give up.”

Pilip’s campaign also heavily relied on support from area Republican elected officials, many of whom stood alongside her at events and rallies throughout the race. Pamela Panzenbeck, the Republican mayor of Glen Cove, reflected that the campaign was always going to be tight, especially against a tough political veteran like Suozzi.

“He’s very well known, he’s very polite, and in politics for 30 years,” Panzenbeck said. “So, you know, it’s difficult to beat somebody like him.”

The campaign revolved around several key issues facing the district and the country, especially the migrant crisis, the Israel-Hamas war and the U.S. economy.

Edmond Wong, of Douglaston, Queens, said he believed Suozzi was the best man for the job.

“We need a good centrist,” Wong said. “He will work on both sides on all the issues, including the border, Ukraine and Israel. Let’s get a candidate who can bring both parties together.”

Additional reporting by Laura Lane and Roksana Amid