(Bloomberg) -- The expulsion of George Santos from Congress Friday triggers a new election in New York City suburbs that threatens to further weaken Republicans’ already shaky control of the US House.
The vacancy will give Democrats a chance to take back a congressional seat the party held for a decade before Santos’s election last year. The first competitive US House special election since the November 2022 midterms, it will also test the durability of the GOP’s surprise wins in parts of the state in 2022 — gains that helped propel the party to the majority.
The Long Island district, which also includes parts of Queens, is one of the nation’s wealthiest congressional districts and includes tony areas like Oyster Bay and Kings Point. It’s one of the districts most affected by the limit on state and local tax deductions imposed as part of the Republican-backed 2017 tax law. Opposition to the limit has been a bipartisan rallying point for local politicians, including Santos.
Issues that are set to dominate the campaign also include the migrant crisis, crime, the economy and Israel — with the district comprising a significant Jewish population.
With only a few months to campaign, insiders say both parties will seek to embrace the name recognition of established politicians to draw votes in what is shaping up as a hotly contested election likely to bring a flood of national campaign money. Former Representative Tom Suozzi, the Democrat who represented the district from 2017 to 2023, and mounted an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2022, is quickly emerging as the front-runner for his party’s nomination.
New York state law requires Governor Kathy Hochul to call a special election between 70 and 90 days after the seat opens, and a vote for Santos’s replacement will likely come some time in February.
Local party leaders choose their nominees because New York’s truncated timeline doesn’t include a primary. Suozzi’s strong relationships with Democratic party leaders within the district and in Washington are likely to make him the top choice, according to people with knowledge of their thinking.
Prior to Friday’s vote, Suozzi declined to comment on his prospects in an email, adding that he’s “waiting until things are finalized.”
Suozzi is among several Democrats who have declared their intention to run for the seat in the regular 2024 election. Former State Senator Anna Kaplan and mostly self-funded businessman Austin Cheng are among Democrats who had raised the most money to compete for the seat as of Sept. 30. Robert Zimmerman, who lost to Santos in 2022, could also be under consideration.
Jay Jacobs, who chairs the Nassau County Democratic Committee, said he and Representative Gregory Meeks, the Queens Democratic chair, hadn’t reached a decision on whom to nominate.
“Everyone will have a chance to state their case,” he said. “Everyone we’re looking at could serve and could serve well.”
Chairs of the Nassau County and Queens Republican committees didn’t make public statements about potential Santos replacements before his ouster. Finding a Republican candidate with name recognition could prove more difficult.
Political consultants speculate that state senator Jack Martins could fit the bill, as he’d run for the seat in 2016. A month ago, he told Politico he’d prefer to stay in his district but didn’t rule out a run. They also name Mazi Pilip, a Nassau County legislator who is a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, as a possible Republican contender.
Kellen Curry, a former Air Force reservist, quit his job as an equities research analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in order to challenge Santos. He’s since received endorsements from Republican congressmen Don Bacon of Nebraska and Tony Gonzales of Texas.
He and retired New York City Police Detective Mike Sapraicone had raised the most money to run in next year’s regular election and have been campaigning in the district. Both say they’re hoping to get the Republican nod.
“I would hope that the GOP would make a swift decision because this is going to be a costly race,” Sapraicone said.
The district backed President Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 8 percentage points in the 2020 election. However, Republicans carried the area in the competitive governor’s race in 2022.
“We take every election one at a time,” said Jacobs, the Nassau County Democratic chair. “It’s going to be a very competitive race.”
--With assistance from Gregory Korte.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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