North Shore residents will vote in a special election on Tuesday, two months after the expulsion of U.S. Rep. George Santos, to determine his replacement in the 3rd Congressional District. It will match former Rep. Tom Suozzi against Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip.
The first ballots were cast last Saturday, when early voting began, with many flocking to the polls to take advantage of the opportunity to make their mark on a rare moment in history. The date of the election, Feb. 13, was chosen by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Last December, Santos became the sixth member of the House of Representatives ever to be expelled. He
became a target for removal after the House Ethics Committee issued a scathing report revealing damning details about how Santos used campaign dollars for his personal enrichment.
Suozzi, a Democrat who held the 3rd District seat for three terms, from 2017 to 2022, is a former Nassau County executive and a former mayor of Glen Cove. He touts himself as an experienced, moderate legislator, prepared to find bipartisan solutions while forgoing extreme politics.
Pilip is a two-term county legislator who is a registered Democrat, but has said she will change her party affiliation to Republican after the election. Born in Ethiopia, she is a former member of the Israel Defense Forces, and says she is a strong supporter of law enforcement and immigration laws.
Bayville resident Lenore Symington Wieman is hoping Pilip will represent her in Congress.
“I feel that it’s very insulting to our intelligence, and extremely condescending, that Tom Suozzi’s slogan is ‘Let’s Fix This’ when Suozzi, by his own votes, has helped to break it, so to speak,” Wieman said. “He skillfully attempts to mislead and distract us, but the truth, is votes don’t lie.”
Wieman said she was encouraged that her friends and neighbors, who belong to both parties, were planning to come together to hold Suozzi accountable at the polls.
“I haven’t seen unity like this in many years,” she said, “and therefore I’m optimistic that we will elect Mazi Pilip, a brave, strong woman, to be our congresswoman.”
But Sea Cliff resident Karen O’Mara Swett said she was concerned that Pilip and her husband reportedly owe $250,000 in back taxes.
“I have to pay my taxes, and I expect up my elected officials will also have to pay theirs,” Swett said, answering a question from the Herald in a Facebook group. “She is brought to us by the same people who brought us George Santos, so barring any further information about her like a voting record, how am I supposed to trust the George Santos people?”
Swett said she favored Suozzi because when he was in Congress, he was a key member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which worked to develop bipartisan solutions to problems that could be addressed with legislation.
“People in Washington seem to have forgotten that they are supposed to work in a bipartisan fashion,” Swett said. “I appreciate that Suozzi carried the torch on that.”
Jim Scheuerman, the Democratic commissioner of the Nassau County Board of Elections, emphasized that this is the first election in state history in which voters are allowed to vote by mail without giving a reason, making it significantly easier for people who may otherwise struggle to take time off from work to vote. Many early voters in Glen Cove said they appreciated the opportunity to cast early ballots, citing conflicts with work, school, and family obligations as prior obstacles to voting.
Glen Cove resident Robert Praver said he was voting for Suozzi, but wouldn’t be opposed to voting for Pilip as a county legislator if she were in his district.
“I am fearful of Trump, and I’m therefore fearful of the Republican Party,” Praver said, referring to former President Donald Trump. “I want to keep the Democrats in Congress where they can regain the House. At this time when it’s such a close balance in the House, every seat counts.”
Republicans have a slim majority in the House, with 219 seats, compared with Democrats’ 212. Four House seats are vacant.
Mark Bombardiere said he voted for Pilip because he’s worried about the economy and immigration.
“I just don’t like the way the Democrats are running things in America,” Bombardiere said. “I’m tired of all the immigration stuff that’s going on.”