George Santos has departed. Now begins the struggle to succeed him

Unfortunately, we will no longer have the opportunity to engage with Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) and challenge his ideas.

Congress has expelled Santos, the congressman who was once known for his fabricated biographies. The House Ethics Committee report, which confirmed the federal charges against him for misusing campaign funds, led to this decision. Despite pleading not guilty and claiming that he is the victim of a “witch hunt,” Santos has been removed from office.

However, with Santos no longer in the House, there is now a vacant position that both parties are eager to fill. Given the narrow Republican majority, this presents a prime opportunity for both sides to seize.

Both Democrats and Republicans are quickly making preparations for a special election to fill the valuable seat previously held by Santos in New York’s 3rd Congressional District. This election could have a significant impact on determining which party controls Congress in the 2024 election. The district, which includes parts of northeast Queens and northwestern Long Island, was won by President Joe Biden in 2020. However, it played a crucial role in delivering Republicans control of the House when Santos was elected in 2022.

The special election holds significant strategic implications and will offer valuable insights into the national political climate leading up to the 2024 presidential election.

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) strolls from his office to the U.S. Capitol on Friday ahead of the vote to expel him. The upcoming special election to fill his seat is anticipated to be a closely contested race.

New York’s Electoral College votes may already be secured for Biden in the upcoming election, but the district is home to various demographic groups that the president needs to appeal to in other states. These include suburban professionals, Asian Americans, and centrist Jewish voters who prioritize strong pro-Israel views. Additionally, this presents an opportunity for individual Democrats to showcase their ability to stand out from Biden and the national party. They can differentiate themselves on issues like inflation, public safety, and immigration, where Republicans often have an advantage in polling.

The special election process begins with a question: How does it all start?

New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) has a period of 10 days to disclose the date for a special election in the 3rd Congressional District, which was held by the late Congressman Tom Santos. The chosen date should fall between 70 to 80 days from the announcement, indicating that the election will take place in late February.

The candidates who will appear on the ballot are still uncertain. Instead of holding a special primary election, the Republican and Democratic parties of Nassau and Queens counties will have the authority to choose their nominees.

Top state party leaders, including Hochul and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, are reportedly playing a significant role in making this decision, considering the high stakes involved. It is not solely up to local party officials.

Hochul emphasized that her main focus is on selecting a candidate who can successfully win the seat for the Democrats. By doing so, it would enable Jeffries, a resident of Brooklyn, to become the House speaker.

In an interview with cable news channel NY1 on Friday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed her top priority in New York: ensuring that Hakeem Jeffries becomes the Speaker of the House of Representatives next January.

Former Representative Tom Suozzi, a moderate Democrat who previously served three terms in the district, is the frontrunner to receive the nomination.

According to two individuals familiar with the matter who requested anonymity for professional reasons, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm of House Democrats, has privately expressed support and encouragement for Suozzi’s candidacy. However, as per their policy of not explicitly endorsing candidates in primaries, the DCCC declined to provide a comment regarding these private discussions.

Former New York state Senator Anna Kaplan (D), a prominent contender and Iranian Jewish refugee, has already amassed over $1 million in campaign funds. Both Kaplan and Suozzi have been invited to meet with party leaders from Queens and Nassau county as they deliberate on their choice.

If Suozzi secures the nomination and emerges victorious in the special election, Kaplan or any other contender would face a challenging task in challenging him for the nomination in the upcoming congressional primaries in June. These primaries will play a crucial role in determining the candidates who will feature on the general election ballot in November 2024. On the other hand, if Suozzi fails to win the special election, the June primary will present an open field for Democrats, as there will be no incumbent in the race.

Other Democrats who vied for the seat prior to the special election included Austin Cheng, a self-funded CEO of a surgery center; Steve Behar, a financial attorney; and Will Murphy, a law professor. Robert Zimmerman, the public relations executive who narrowly lost to Santos in 2022, has not yet revealed his plans.

Former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) is expected to secure the Democratic nomination for the special election in New York’s 3rd District. However, he will have to navigate through challenging conditions in a region that has been leaning towards the Republican party.

The New York Republicans responsible for selecting a nominee are currently considering two candidates: Mike Sapraicone, a retired New York Police Department Detective, and Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Ethiopian-born Israeli immigrant to the U.S.

Several other Republican candidates have already entered the race, including Kellen Curry, a Black Air Force veteran and finance professional. Daniel Norber, the Israeli American founder of a moving company, and Greg Hach, a self-funding trial lawyer, have also thrown their hats in the ring.

Democrats are divided on which candidate would have the advantage in a race against the eventual Republican nominee. Suozzi brings a moderate perspective and familiarity with the district, although it should be noted that the district has undergone some changes. However, there are also drawbacks to consider, such as the potential scrutiny surrounding his business connections with Jay Jacobs. Jacobs holds influential positions in both the New York State Democratic Committee and the Nassau County Democratic Party, which could impact the selection of the special election nominee.

Kaplan, who previously received the endorsement of the progressive Working Families Party, supported a law in 2019 that significantly limited the use of cash bail. She also voted in favor of the budget that included the implementation of a congestion pricing system, which will impose taxes on drivers entering busy areas of Manhattan during working hours. These two votes played a significant role in Kaplan’s unsuccessful bid for re-election to the state Senate in 2022.

In the recent municipal and county elections held in November, Republicans made significant gains on Long Island. A notable victory was the election of a Republican candidate as the executive of Suffolk County, winning by a large margin. This outcome is particularly significant as it gives the Republican party control over a stronghold of power that was previously dominated by Democrats, despite the Democrats’ substantial financial advantage.

The special election holds significant national implications, with one asterisk to consider. The boundaries of New York’s 3rd District, in which Biden received 2 fewer percentage points than the previous district, may be subject to change before the general election. There is a possibility that the district could become more favorable to Democrats as New York Democrats are seeking to modify the current maps. The state’s Court of Appeals is expected to make a decision on this matter sometime this month.

Democrats, however, encounter challenges as they strive to win the seat in February and retain it in November.

According to Alyssa Cass, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to Zak Malamed, who recently withdrew from the 3rd District race, although this district was won by Biden, it also voted for a Republican in the previous cycle. Moreover, this area of the state has been moving away from Democrats, presenting significant challenges for the party. Cass emphasizes that while Democrats still have a chance to win this race, it would be a mistake to consider it a guaranteed victory, as there are various factors to consider.

According to Cass, the key issues that will take center stage in the special election are the cost of living, the migrant crisis, and crime. She suggests that Democrats should shift the focus of the race and make it a national issue, framing it as a referendum on control of the House and voters’ concerns regarding the extreme tendencies of the national Republican Party.

According to the speaker, the key to transforming Leader Jeffries into Speaker Jeffries lies in the state of New York. She believes that this task will be significantly more achievable if they can generate momentum following the special event.

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