With New York’s 3rd Congressional District facing an unprecedented special election to replace disgraced former Congressman George Santos, all eyes are on the two candidates vying to replace him.
For the Democrats, former Congressman Tom Suozzi is on the ballot to face off against Nassau County Republican Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip. With only a month to go before the Feb. 13 election, residents are already looking into the personal and political histories of their potential representatives.
Phil Como, a registered Republican and resident of Sea Cliff, said he’s known Suozzi for many years, and regardless of the fact that the former congressman is a Democrat, Como views him as “a seasoned political warrior.” Como added that he believes Suozzi, as a political moderate, is the kind of voice the 3rd District needs in the House right now, particularly after the debacle that was Santos’ tenure in office.
“He has conversations regularly with members of both parties, and in Congress he was on the Ways and Means Committee,” Como said. “He’s a certified public accountant and public auditor, and he’s a very, very brilliant fellow when it comes to that.”
Como said while he looks forward to hearing more from Pilip the information he’s read about her legislative and personal background thus far, while interesting, does not compare in his mind to Suozzi’s decades of local, state and federal government experience. He went on to say that from what he’s seen, Pilip has not been an outspoken member of the legislature, and he hasn’t seen any evidence thus far that has convinced him to stop supporting Suozzi.
“I think the Republicans felt they needed to do something dramatic to keep this seat,” Como concluded. “I think that in her heart of hearts she is not that much different from Suozzi politically, except for the fact that he’s got 30 years of experience.”
Glen Head resident and registered Republican George Pombar says he is keeping a very open mind for this special election. He emphasized that the Santos controversy has been incredibly discouraging for the district, and that he believes this will be a “very interesting election.”
“Tom Suozzi is a very well-known name in this area,” Pombar acknowledged. “We don’t know much about Mazi, but she seems to be very qualified.”
Pombar pointed out that elections have become more partisan in recent years, which could make this one tighter than might be immediately apparent. However, he emphasized that following George Santos, what the district needs more than anything is a representative who will actually be able to get things done for the district.
“Many people this (day and) age are voting down the party line I think, and that could make a difference that could really be unpredictable,” Pombar said. “What really matters is that we need to be well represented in Congress, from my perspective and the perspective of the community. It’s going to be interesting.”
Ravin Chetram, a registered Democrat of East Norwich said he supports Suozzi, who he argues is “the best-qualified candidate in this race.” Despite this, Chetram, who is Guyanese-American, added that he hopes Pilip does well because he supports increasing diversity among elected officials, although he doesn’t think she has enough political experience.
“I want to see diversity, but I don’t want to support someone just for that, I want them to be qualified,” Chetram continued. “We had a whole year that we wasted representation to our district.”
Chetram said he was disappointed to learn that Pilip failed to vote in local elections for years until she began running herself. According to an article in the New York Post, until 2021 Pilip had only voted in presidential elections, despite having been a registered voter since 2012.
“She should have been voting as a person in society here because it matters,” Chetram said. “The optics make it seem like she just started doing it because she ran for office.”