Tom Suozzi and Mazi Pilip are fighting to represent Nassau County and Eastern Queens in Congressional District 3.
Partisan politics and the illegal immigrant crisis are rapidly becoming central issues in the battleground congressional race between Tom Suozzi and Mazi Pilip, who are vying to represent District 3, which spans Nassau County and part of Eastern Queens.
Ms. Pilip and Mr. Suozzi are gunning for the seat vacated by GOP Rep. George Santos after the House voted to expel him.
“It’s been a fierce campaign,” former U.S. Senator Al D’Amato told The Epoch Times. “Winning is going to be a matter of turnout. I believe the Republican turnout will be huge and that there will be many Democrats who will vote for Mazi.”
Mr. D’Amato, who represented New York in the U.S. Senate from 1981 to 1999, said he contributed $6,600 to Ms. Pilip’s campaign. His brother donated $3,300.
With less than a week before the Feb. 13 special election, a proposed Senate border deal had Ms. Pilip towing a staunch GOP party line against it while Mr. Suozzi broke from Democratic Party talking points to support stand-alone aid to Israel proposed by House Republicans.
“I support this bill and disagree with the president and members of the Democratic Party who do not support it,” Mr. Suozzi told The Epoch Times.
Congress failed to pass the $17.6 billion bill that would have aided Israel, while the Senate grappled with the House Republicans’ rejection of a bill that would restrict border crossings to 4,000 illegal immigrants per week.
Ms. Pilip opposed the Senate border bill because she said it sets a threshold of at least 1.5 million additional illegal immigrants entering the U.S. each year.
“That is truly appalling,” she told The Epoch Times. “Beyond this, as I have said all along, I do not believe that linking aid to Israel and Ukraine to a border deal is the best way to move forward, and all these pressing issues should be dealt with separately and swiftly.”
The bill includes some $20 billion in border funding.
The Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) promoted Ms. Pilip’s rejection as an inability to work across the aisle.
“While Mazi Pilip grandstands on issues impacting New York’s third district with Republican party bosses, Tom Suozzi is putting forth actual, bipartisan solutions to fix our border,” DCCC spokesperson Ellie Dougherty said in a statement.
District 3 appears to be Democrat-dominant. President Joe Biden garnered 54.7 percent of the 2020 presidential election votes compared to the 44.3 percent of votes scored by former President Donald Trump, according to voter data.
But when the disgraced Mr. Santos was elected two years ago, it gave the GOP a foothold.
“This is a seat that was ready to flip when it did two years ago,“ R0obert Hornak, former executive director of the Queens GOP, told The Epoch Times. ”Suozzi is saddled with the record of the Biden administration. He’s going to have to explain why he either supports or doesn’t support Biden’s policies, which will be very, very hard for him.”
Although President Biden is in New York this week, he has not campaigned for Mr. Suozzi so far. The stakes are high because the outcome of the special election could tip the scale one way or the other over control of the House.
Currently, Mike Johnson (R-LA) is the speaker of the House.
“I think it’s important that Mazi get[s] elected, especially because she will be voting for speaker of the House of Representatives,” Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman told The Epoch Times. “We need to have a Republican speaker and not a left-wing woke speaker who is going to continue to perpetuate these policies that are destroying America.”
‘Boots on the Ground’
The Republican majority in Congress was clear until Mr. Santos was expelled on Dec. 1, 2023.
Yesterday, when House Republicans tried to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, they failed because there weren’t enough votes. Democrat and Republican members of Congress tied 214-214.
Politico reported that more Democrats than Republicans have cast their ballots in the first three days of Nassau County’s early voting. However, Mr. Blakeman said at local rallies that more supporters are showing up for Ms. Pilip than for Mr. Suozzi.
Out of 23, 578 ballots cast, 10,160 were Democrats and 8,153 were Republicans. Unaffiliated voters accounted for 4,404 of votes cast as of Feb. 6.
“Last week, Suozzi had 150 people at his rally,” Mr. Blakeman said. “Mazi had a rally right at about the same time, and she had close to a thousand people. So, I think we have the energy, we have the boots on the ground, and I’m reasonably confident she will be elected.”
Mr. Blakeman participated in a press conference yesterday, along with Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly and representatives from the Nassau County Police Department, where they discussed an alleged assault by an illegal immigrant from North Africa against a Hewlett homeowner earlier this week.
Before Bechir Lehbeib, 26, was arrested he had been residing between a Staten Island shelter and a home in Jamaica, Queens.
“The question out here is will the Republicans be able to turn out the Levittown and Massapequa Republican bastions for a black Jewish woman,” Steven R. Schlesinger, a Nassau County attorney who represents Democrat and Republican candidates in various election issues, told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Suozzi is Italian-American while Ms. Pilip is an Ethiopian American of the orthodox Jewish faith who immigrated to Israel from the Horn of Africa and subsequently to the United States.
Currently, Mr. Suozzi is leading financially. In her 48-hour Notice of Contributions form filed on Feb. 4, Ms. Pilip reported that 21 individuals contributed a total of approximately $37,000 from locations as far away as Florida, Georgia, and Maryland.
Meanwhile, Mr. Suozzi’s Feb. 3 form lists contributions from 57 out of 85 individuals and political action committees, totaling $188,100, from locations as distant as Minnesota, California, and Texas.
Having more money, however, is no guarantee that Mr. Suozzi will win, according to Mr. Schlesinger.
“The Republicans are better at driving their voters to the polls than the Democrats,” Mr. Schlesinger said. “The Democrats have no ground troops. So, unless Suozzi imports a ton of ground troops, I’m not sure where they’re getting the boots on the ground.”
A breakdown of the contributions shows that 28 percent of Ms. Pilip’s are small amounts from individuals, compared to only 11 percent for Mr. Suozzi.
Ms. Pilip’s greatest challenge is not fundraising, according to Mr. D’Amato. It’s to overcome the right-wing messaging in broadcast advertising that the Democrat party has invested in.
“The Swazi campaign has been full of fabrications,” Mr. D’Amato alleged.
A DCCC YouTube video depicts Ms. Pilip as a candidate who is avoiding questions about her agenda and depicts her as being an extremist who seeks to ban abortion and make massive cuts to social security. Mr. Blakeman disputes the negative portrayal of Ms. Pilip.
“She wants to work to reduce inflation so purchases are more affordable for middle-class families,” he said. “She is someone who fully supports funding social security, and she has indicated that she would vote against any national ban on abortion so she is a rock solid mainstream Republican.”
Mr. Suozzi is also being cast as a radical but from a left-leaning angle.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sponsored a YouTube video stating he kicked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) out of Nassau County and weakened the borders during his previous tenure in the seat.
“Tom Suozzi’s open border policies have led to the migrant crisis we are seeing now,” NRCC spokeswoman Savannah Viar said in a statement online. “No amount of attempting to rewrite history can change that.”
St. John’s University legal and homeland security professor William Murphy defended Mr. Suozzi by predicting that Ms. Pilip would blindly vote along party lines if elected, which would fuel polarization and dysfunction in Washington.
“[Suozzi] is a bipartisan bridge-builder who actually engages with and listens to the public he works for, reaches across the aisle to make deals that best serve not his party but his constituents, and just plain gets things done at a pivotal moment when Congress must start getting things done,” said Mr. Murphy who was previously a congressional candidate before withdrawing last year to endorse Mr. Suozzi.