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Five things to watch in the race to replace George Santos

GREAT NECK, N.Y. — Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District could do more than replace disgraced former Republican Rep. George Santos in the House. It could also have implications beyond Long Island, from the House majority to the November election.

Former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi faces Republican Mazi Pilip, a Nassau County lawmaker and Ethiopian immigrant who served in the Israel Defense Forces. Suozzi entered the race with a lot of notoriety — he represented the 3rd District before unsuccessfully running for governor in 2022.

And even though Suozzi and his Democratic allies have outspent Republicans on the airwaves, strategists in both parties expect a close race Tuesday.

Here are five things to watch as voters head to the polls, which close at 9 p.m. ET:

1. Implications for the House Majority

The GOP holds a razor-thin majority in the House, which shrank further after Santos’ expulsion. The margin is 219 Republicans to 212 Democrats. A victory would give the Republican Party little room to maneuver in key votes, while a defeat would put even more pressure on it to compromise with Democrats in order to govern.

Last week showed the importance of every vote in the House when an attempt by Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed by a single vote. On multiple issues, small factions of House Republican rebels have successfully thwarted leaders’ plans to press their demands.

“In every election, the stakes are very high. But when it comes to a special election with such a slim majority, the stakes are very, very high,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., told NBC News. at an event for Pilip on Monday evening. “This is the smallest majority in modern congressional history. So every vote counts.

Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., who represents a neighboring Queens district and worked to help elect Suozzi, said a Democratic victory “would be a great morale booster.” Clearly, Republicans are having a bit of a problem getting their own legislation passed. So they really need this victory to try to function as a House.

2. Bellwether District for 2024

Tuesday’s results could provide clues for competitive races in November — the battle for the House will be in similar districts. Like other competitive House districts, New York’s 3rd District on Long Island is largely suburban and it is a GOP-held district that Joe Biden won in 2020.

It’s also in a state that won’t get much attention from presidential campaigns, so Tuesday night’s winner and outside groups will have to shoulder much of the campaign effort in November. But it also allows candidates to localize the race and distance themselves from the national narrative.

That’s exactly what Suozzi attempted to do, emphasizing his willingness to work with both parties as Biden’s support in the district has plummeted since 2020. A Newsday/Siena College poll released last week found that Suozzi had 4 points ahead of Pilip, within the limits of the poll. margin of error, but it also found Biden trailing former President Donald Trump by 5 points.

Win or lose on Tuesday, Suozzi and Pilip have both committed to running for a full term in November, so they are expected to face each other again this year.

“I think Wednesday morning, however this ends, it’s going to start again,” Mark Schneider, a Great Neck resident who voted for Suozzi, said Monday. “So we’re going to have the same type of campaign, the same type of activity and a lot of advertising.”

3. Will migration fuel the Republicans?

The migrant crisis has dominated recent television ads in the district, and Republicans believe concerns about the influx of migrants to neighboring New York City will hurt support for Suozzi.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the main GOP super PAC spending in House races, recently launched a television ad linking Suozzi to New York Mayor Eric Adams, with a narrator saying: “Liberals like Suozzi and Eric Adams rolled out the red carpet for illegal immigrants. .”

Suozzi, meanwhile, sought to neutralize the vulnerability by emphasizing his support for the bipartisan border security measure that failed last week in the Senate, arguing that Pilip, who opposed the bill, is beholden to the extremes of his party who want to use the problems at the Senate level. border for political purposes.

Democrats also believe that the Republican Party’s opposition to the measure, led by Trump, gives them an opening with voters on immigration, with which Republicans generally have an advantage. Tuesday’s special election could be an early test of that strategy, although the back-and-forth over the bill could happen too late to affect the race.

4. Can Democrats leverage issues like abortion and guns?

Outside Democratic groups, meanwhile, have focused in part on abortion, which helped fuel recent Democratic victories after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The House Majority PAC, the main Democratic super PAC involved in House races, launched a television ad featuring video of Pilip saying she is “pro-life.” Pilip stressed that she would not support a federal ban on abortion, but she sidestepped a question about whether that would mean she would vote to protect abortion access.

Suozzi sought to exploit Pilip’s refusal to state clear positions on restricting abortion or banning semi-automatic weapons – both vulnerabilities for Republicans – as further evidence that she is in thrall to the right-wing extremists who are out of step with the district on these issues. He also dubbed her “George Santos 2.0,” accusing her of a lack of transparency.

Pilip said she does not support access to automatic assault rifles. But during their only debate last week, on News12 Long Island, Suozzi tried to press Pilip on whether she would support banning semi-automatic weapons, which are at the heart of the proposed bans, and Pilip refused to specify its position.

5. Will winter weather hamper participation?

A major winter storm forecast for Long Island on Election Day could dampen voter turnout in what is already expected to be a low-turnout election.

These predictions have raised some concerns among Republican strategists because their voters vote disproportionately on Election Day, compared to Democrats, who vote early and in greater numbers. At a rally in Franklin Square Monday evening, Pilip and top New York Republicans urged their constituents not to let the storm get in the way of their participation.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or snowing. We’re going to go out there safely, we’re going to go out. We’re going to encourage people to go out and vote safely,” Pilip told the crowd. “Because we’re talking about saving our country. The country we love most.”

Suozzi sought to encourage voters to take advantage of every opportunity to vote, tweeting Monday about the impending storm.

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