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Seat Vacated by Santos Moves to “Toss Up” Status

Former Republican congressman George Santos was expelled from Congress on Friday.

Rep. George Santos leaves the U.S. Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on December 1, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

The third congressional district of New York — the federal legislative seat that’s been vacated due to the expulsion of former GOP Rep. George Santos — is considered a “toss-up” district in the special election set for early 2024.

Santos, who faces 23 federal charges (including fraud and conspiracy) due to his lies to manipulate donors and constituents in his district and beyond, was removed from his position in the House of Representatives by a supermajority vote on Friday, becoming just the sixth member of that chamber to be expelled in U.S. history.

Santos’s removal has serious political ramifications. For the time being, it lessens by one more seat Republicans’ already narrow majority in the House, creating just a four-seat GOP majority. Santos’s removal also slides the third congressional district into swing-seat status, with the Cook Political Report, a well-respected prognosticator of congressional elections, rating a pending special election for the seat as a toss-up.

New York law requires the governor to announce a new election for a vacated House seat in the state within 90 days — Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is expected to announce the election to take place sometime in February. State law also bypasses the need for a primary election to determine the partisan candidates, requiring county leaders within a congressional district to vote internally for their nominees.

Democrats began their selection process on Friday evening, just hours after Santos was removed from the House. Party leaders from both Nassau and Queens counties describe the meeting as a “screening process” for potential nominees, though it is expected that they will nominate former third congressional district Rep. Tom Suozzi (D).

Suozzi opted not to run in 2022 in order to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor that year, losing out to Hochul. His decision prompted an open race for the seat, making it easier to win for Santos, a newcomer who lied repeatedly about his personal background.

Beyond the rating change for the district, both Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged that the seat will be highly contested in the upcoming election, with GOP leaders recognizing that Santos’s scandals will make the race more difficult for them.

“It’s always tough being a Republican in New York, unless you’re in a district that Elise Stefanik has,” New York Republican strategist Tom Doherty told The Hill.

Democratic leaders, including the head of at least one major super PAC aligned with the party, have made it clear that winning the district — thereby shrinking the GOP’s House majority even more — is a top national priority.

“House Majority PAC plans to play a significant role in the NY-03 special election. We will do whatever it takes to flip this district blue,” said Mike Smith, president of the super PAC.

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