The Democratic field for next year’s primary in the 3rd Congressional District, which Republican George Santos currently represents, has narrowed, with Josh Lafazan’s announcement on Tuesday that he dropped out of the race. Lafazan, who lost his bid for re-election in Nassau County’s 11th Legislative District on Nov. 7, had held more than a dozen news conferences decrying Santos’ fabrications, falsehoods and deceptions, saying he is unfit to represent the district, which encompasses the North Shore and parts of Queens. Lafazan demanded often that Santos resign.
Lafazan’s announcement on Instagram follows those of two newcomers to the political arena, Will Murphy, on Oct. 16, and Zak Malamed, on Nov. 8, that they would no longer be candidates in the Democratic primary.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi announced on Oct. 10 that he would run to reclaim the 3rd District seat. Murphy, Malamed and Lafazan have said they would support Suozzi’s candidacy.
“Nominating Tom Suozzi is our best chance to flip this district blue and end the toxic hold that MAGA Republicans have on Long Island and Congress at large,” Malamed said in a statement. “This moment is too important for an intra-party fight. All of our collective energy needs to be on electing a Democratic majority who can deliver relief to the American people, aid for Israel and support for Ukraine.”
Former State Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Democrat who will remain in the congressional race, pointed out that Suozzi’s political history has not always been stellar. In 2006, after eight years as Nassau County executive, he lost a re-election bid to Republican Ed Mangano, following a failed gubernatorial primary bid that same year, which Suozzi lost to Eliot Spitzer. Then, after representing the 3rd District in the House of Representatives since 2017, Suozzi stepped down in order to run for governor in 2022, ultimately losing to Gov. Kathy Hochul in the Democratic primary.
Kaplan said she would be a better alternative for Congress. Having announced her candidacy in May, she said on Wednesday that she had no intention of dropping out.
“I’m not sure why (Murphy, Malamed and Lafazan) dropped out, but I am in this race 100 percent,” Kaplan said. “I think we need a 100 percent pro-choice woman in office, because who can speak better of that than a woman? I want to codify Roe nationally.”
Suozzi said he decided to run again because “the country is in trouble and needs help.”
During his time in Congress, Suozzi served as vice chair of the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of 58 congressional members evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. His hope was to help bring about bipartisan consensus, which he said he remains committed to.
“I want to bring sanity back to Washington,” he said. “I’d join the Problem Solvers again and do more things to foster bipartisanship. I think the leaders from both sides need to set up a bipartisan committee.”
The main goal for anyone running for the 3rd District seat, the candidates have said, is to get Santos out of office. Murphy compared Santos’ representation of the district to “a bad reality show,” and Malamed, founder of the advocacy group The Next 50, which supports Democratic politicians under the age of 50, said his hope was to reinvigorate the district’s reputation from shame and embarrassment, due to Santos’ representation, to hope.
Santos is facing a 23-count federal indictment, but has remained unapologetic, standing by information that has been proven false. Apparently undeterred by public outcry for his ouster, he announced in April that he would run for re-election, but on Thursday, after the release of a report from the House Ethics Committee, he posted on X that he would not seek a second term.
Suozzi appears to be the choice of many, but he does have voters who resent him for leaving the House, believing his departure made Santos’ election possible. Suozzi said he isn’t concerned.
“Anyone who says that Tom Suozzi is the only person who could have won against George Santos is really endorsing my candidacy, because they’re saying I’m the best possible candidate,” Suozzi said.
Of course, politics can be tricky.
Lafazan became the youngest county legislator ever when he was elected in 2017, at age 23. Last week he lost soundly to his Republican challenger, newcomer Samantha Goetz, who captured 58 percent of the vote.
Republicans, who are in the majority in the Nassau County Legislature, were given the privilege of redrawing district lines, a process that happens every 10 years, based on to population changes reflected in the 2020 census. The new map was adopted on Feb. 27. Lafazan claimed that the new composition of his district lost him the election.
“The redistricting thing cut my entire hometown out — Syosset and Woodbury, the communities I worked with since I was 18 on the school board,” he said. “My loss was difficult in the sense I felt it was remarkably unfair. I was the only legislator running who wasn’t able to have his hometown be involved in the election.”
Add to that, Lafazan said Republicans mounted an aggressive campaign of slander and defamation.
“There was blatant antisemitism on display, which was made all the more despicable in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel,” he said. “But in addition, there were the vicious lies being told to impugn my character and my record of service. It’s something that I think is the root of all evil in politics, a race to the lowest common denominator. We as a people have to reject this type of gutter politics, because it gets us nowhere.”
Lafazan said he was exploring a run for the State Senate. And Murphy announced his candidacy for the seat in the state’s 15th Assembly District on Monday.