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Dems Pick Up House Seat With Suozzi Winning New York Special Election

The win for Democrats tightens the already slim majority Republicans have in the House of Representatives.

Democratic House candidate Tom Suozzi speaks following his victory in the special election to replace Republican Rep. George Santos on February 13, 2024, in Woodbury, New York.

Democrats won a highly sought after House seat in a special election in New York on Tuesday, with former congressman Tom Suozzi taking back the seat he had held years ago.

The seat was vacated late last year following the expulsion of former Republican congressman George Santos, who has been charged with fraud and became notorious for lying to voters in the 2022 campaign about several aspects of his life.

With 93 percent of votes counted so far, Suozzi received 53.9 percent of the total votes, defeating his Republican challenger, Mazi Pilip, who received 46.1 percent.

With Suozzi’s win, the slim majority that Republicans have in the House of Representatives becomes even slimmer, with just three votes separating the GOP and Democrats in the chamber.

Although the race is not likely to be a huge bellwether for the rest of the country — Suozzi had strong name recognition going into the race, and Santos’s ethics issues likely turned some voters off of Republicans in general — the outcome of the special election could indicate how the two major parties will perform in the suburbs in the upcoming congressional elections this November.

Much of the race centered on immigration, with Suozzi taking a contradictory approach to the issue while Pilip and Republicans sought to attack him. The issue was seen as very important to these suburban voters, as local news reports inundate them daily about 170,000 asylum-seeking migrants who have come to New York City.

Suozzi didn’t shy away from the issue but rather leaned heavily into it, at times expressing compassionate views toward migrants to showcase the dehumanizing way Republicans have portrayed them. At other times, however, Suozzi used similar fear tactics that Republicans employ to suggest Pilip would side with GOP lawmakers in Congress to block a bipartisan immigration proposal simply to help former President Donald Trump keep it an issue in the upcoming presidential race.

At a weekend rally, for example, Suozzi claimed Pilip’s doing so would lead to “more migrants coming to New York” who will “have access to AR-15s,” a statement clearly meant to cause fear in voters’ minds at the expense of immigrants.

Democrats appear ready to adopt the fearmongering strategy in campaigns elsewhere to diffuse Republican attacks against them on the issue.

“It’s a very interesting lesson to Democrats that you can escape your opponent’s attacks on immigration by not only leaning into the issue, but doubling down on it,” said former congressman Steve Israel, speaking to The New York Times about Suozzi’s win.

Abortion featured heavily in the race, with Suozzi expressing pro-abortion views and Pilip struggling to stake her own position.

Pilip “was betwixt and between the GOP base and its extreme position on abortion and the views of the voters,” opined former Obama administration aide and Pod Save America co-host Dan Pfeiffer. “Two years [after the end of Roe v. Wade] and many, many losses later, the Republicans still don’t know how to deal with abortion. They will keep losing until they do.”

Antipathy toward Trump by voters in the suburbs also dominated the campaign, as Suozzi sought to tie Pilip to supporting the “MAGA” vision for America. Indeed, a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows that, in the presidential race, President Joe Biden leads Trump by 16 points among suburban voters.

Endorsements from Trump allies didn’t help Pilip — in fact, some pundits believe they may have made matters worse for her on the campaign trail.

“MAGA Mike [Johnson] went in there. Stefanik went in there. They made the whole campaign about the border. And they got destroyed,” said MeidasTouch editor-in-chief Ron Filipkowski.

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