In a bid for Congress, Mazi Melesa Pilip has made waves for her proactive stance against antisemitism and vocal advocacy for conservative values.
Running on a platform that emphasizes community engagement, border security, and support for Israel, the Nassau County legislator aims to bring her brand of leadership to the national stage in her bid to succeed the ousted George Santos, and keep this particular congressional seat in Republican hands.
Although some of her critics have branded her as “silent,” Pilip says that’s one of her strengths. She’s more of a “doer” than a talker. Although she’s spent only a few years in the political arena, Pilip says she’s running for Congress because she’s a fresh voice and face.
“We need leadership,” Pilip told reporters during a recent Herald Roundtable session. “We need young people — people like me — to take a role and lead this country.”
It’s been more than a year since there were full constituent services in the district as many looked to neighboring congressional members like Anthony D’Esposito and Andrew Garbarino instead. With an eye to returning the district to normalcy after months of national ridicule, Pilip says potential constituents have clamored to get her to Washington.
“Committee leaders, rabbis, people who really wanted to meet me, they really see that I’m engaging, I really care about the people,” she said. “I am not just taking a job for a title. I work very hard.”
Pilip is set to take part in one debate, despite her opponent calling for at least several more. Pilip says she believes in the value of debates, but turned down all but one so she could focus on her own efforts connecting with voters.
“I’m meeting a lot of people at a lot of events,” Pilip said. “I don’t have that much time for debates, but I’m looking forward to that one on Feb. 8. I’m very confident I’m going to win this election because people know where I’m standing. I’m engaging myself as much as possible to the public.”
When Pilip can’t get out to meet voters herself, she’s depending on volunteers to canvas neighborhoods. What she’s hearing back focuses on immigration, increasing law enforcement presence, and economic inflation. Pilip stresses the Democratic Party as a whole isn’t doing enough when it comes to immigration — especially on the southern border — or enhancing law enforcement.
During her time with county government in Mineola, Pilip says she listened to her constituents on safety, bringing license plate readers to Kings Point. She helped get the Great Neck Park District access to a vacant land parcel owned by Nassau County located along Wood Road in Great Neck — an issue Pilip said was unresolved since 1979.
“I think everybody who came before me just promised,” Pilip said. “Nobody delivered. When I took the position (as a county legislator), I made sure to connect with the people that related to the land, and I successfully transferred that land that was very neglected, very dirty, and was collecting water.”
Since entering politics in 2021, Pilip has been a staunch advocate for combating antisemitism, spearheading passage of the first antisemitism task force bill in the legislature. She worked closely with law enforcement and its hate crime unit, as well as the district attorney’s office. Through community events, public hearings and meetings, Pilip says she’s actively gathered input while formulating recommendations to address what she describes as a rise in antisemitic incidents since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
What happened in Israel affected Pilip deeply, as someone who spent a good portion of her life there. As an immigrant herself, Pilip has been vocal on increasing border control agencies and continuing work on the border wall former president Donald Trump championed.
“I want people to have the American dream, I want them to come here,” Pilip said. “This country was founded by immigrants, but you understand what has to be done.”
Despite being a registered Democrat, Pilip has made it clear she does not fully align with the current direction of the Democratic Party with plans to become a Republican after the Feb. 13 special election. But she doesn’t call herself a “MAGA” Republican — the term used by some to identify Trump supporters — stating that recent political ads incorrectly color her as an “extremist.” For example, despite claims by others, Pilip says she doesn’t believe the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol building was a “peaceful protest,” as some Republicans have claimed.
“It was violent,” she said. “People have a right to protest in this country — which is a right — and we have to be very respectful. But nobody’s above the law. Nobody should do anything that violent.”
Still, Pilip finds herself leaning toward more conservative values mixed in with some potentially bipartisan views. For example, she doesn’t support a federal abortion ban, and she advocates for gun rights, while also acknowledging the need for responsible gun ownership measures.
“We are protecting Americans’ right to bear arms and protecting the Second Amendment,” Pilip said. “This is the right given to the American people.
“I’d like to see more of the federal and local government collaborate together to make sure guns don’t get into the wrong hands, and follow the rules and regulations with background checks and a waiting period and training. I don’t support automatic assault weapons.”
Pilip also urges Gov. Kathy Hochul to do more for Nassau County, starting by finding ways to collaborate with local government.
That includes sending more money to the county, although she wasn’t specific about how those funds should be allocated.
On environmental issues, Pilip says she recognizes climate change as a scientific fact, expressing a willingness to collaborate with experts to address environmental concerns.
One of the defining aspects of Pilip’s campaign is her unwavering support for Israel. Drawing from her personal experiences and service in the Israel Defense Forces, she emphasizes the importance of strong U.S.-Israel relations, and says her first-hand experience living in Israel makes her the right person for the job.
“I still remember those buses and restaurants that were exploding left and right,” Pilip said. “I understand the rules, understand why it’s important to support Israel, when you live in Israel, surrounded by a lot of enemies.”
Pilip fears not supporting Israel leaves the United States open to attacks that parallel the scope of Sept. 11, 2001. If elected, she says she can explain to the House of Representatives the harsh realities Israelis face.
“Israel is a country that gave me the opportunity for a better life,” she said of her time in the Israeli military. “I thought that was the right thing to do to serve and protect Israel from terrorists around the country.”