Scramble for George Santos' House seat erupts, special election looms after expulsion
New York — A political scramble erupted on Friday after the expulsion of now ex-Rep. George Santos left his Long Island congressional seat vacant, forcing a special election to fill it.
Within minutes of the historic vote to oust Santos, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced she would put in motion the process of scheduling a vote to replace him, which would take place in February.
“I am prepared to undertake the solemn responsibility of filling the vacancy in New York’s 3rd District,” Hochul said in a statement. “The people of Long Island deserve nothing less.”
In an interview with NY1, Hochul said Santos “just took up space.”
A special election is required to fill an empty seat in the House of Representatives for New York’s delegation. Hochul has 10 days to set the special election for the swing district spanning the North Shore and part of Queens, which must be held between 70 and 80 days from that proclamation.
The Democratic and Republican candidates for the special will be handpicked by party leaders in Nassau and Queens, the two counties included in the district.
Ex-Rep. Tom Suozzi, who represented most of the district for three terms before the latest redistricting is the favorite on the Democratic side. Former state Sen. Anna Kaplan is also wants the nomination along with Robert Zimmerman, who lost to Santos in the 2022 midterms.
The Republican side is more wide open, with leaders planning to interview about 20 candidates. Insiders name Nassau legislator Mazi Pilip, a trailblazing Ethiopian-Israeli immigrant and Mike Sapraicone, a retired NYPD detective, as potential formidable candidates.
State Sen. Jack Martins represents most of the district already in Albany and beat Kaplan in 2022. But he has previously said he’s not interested in running.
Jay Jacobs, who doubles as Democratic state and Nassau County party chair, boasted that Team Blue will flip the narrowly divided North Shore-based district, which voted for President Joe Biden by 8% in 2020 but swung to Santos two years later.
“We are ready to pick a candidate and we’re ready to win the election,” Jacobs told the News.
Democratic leaders planned to hold a screening session with potential candidates Friday night and select a standard bearer on Tuesday.
Democrats believe the sour taste left in voters’ mouths by Santos’s ill-fated stint in office will give them a big edge.
But Republicans argue that they have enjoyed a string of electoral successes on Long Island since Biden took office, including significant victories in off-year local elections last month.
The GOP says the vaunted Nassau County Republican machine will play an outsized role in a vote held in the depths of winter.
With Santos gone, Republicans control the House by a slim eight-vote margin, an edge that would be reduced to just seven if Democrats win the 3rd District seat early next year.
Both parties will likely use the special as a dress rehearsal for the main event: the battle for Congress in 2024.
Democrats hope to retake up to a half-dozen seats that the GOP flipped in the midterms in the New York suburbs alone, giving them a huge leg up as they try to grab back control of the House.
The political landscape in New York state could also shift dramatically if the state’s top court rules that congressional district lines may be redrawn for a second time in as many years. That could potentially set the stage for Democrats to tweak swing districts like the ones on Long Island to boost their chances.
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