New York’s First Special

Last Friday’s expulsion of now former New York US Rep. George Santos (R-Long Island) will lead to the state’s first 2024 special election.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) is resigning in February, meaning a second special will occur in western New York later in the year.

Based upon the House Ethics Committee report about Mr. Santos’ alleged unethical and illegal activities, the House on a 311-114 count reached the necessary 2/3 vote of those present and voting to expel the freshman member. A special election in Nassau and Queens Counties will now be called to fill the balance of the term. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will have ten days to schedule the vote. According to New York governing parameters, the eligible election days are February 20 or 27th.

Under the Empire State procedure, the affected county party chairmen have the power to nominate their special election standard bearers. Because Nassau County comprises ¾ of the 3rd District, only one individual in each party will effectively select their nominee. Since the county chairmen votes are weighted based upon entity population, the Nassau chairmen can out-vote the Queens County chairmen.

Democratic chairman Jay S. Jacobs is apparently going to announce the party nominee tomorrow, which will very likely be former Congressman Tom Suozzi, though five others have declared for the regular election including former state Senator Anna Kaplan. The ex-Representative would be favored in the special general against the eventual Republican nominee. 

Mr. Suozzi represented the 3rd District for three terms beginning in 2017. He did not seek re-election in 2022 because he launched a long shot campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was unsuccessful.  

It is less clear who Nassau County Republican chairman Joseph G. Cairo, Jr. will select and when. Nine Republicans had already announced their candidacies for the regular term. None have ever been elected to any office, and it is probable that Mr. Cairo would lean toward one of the area’s elected officials as opposed to an announced candidate. 

Previously, the GOP Chairman had publicly urged state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) to challenge then-Rep. Santos for the 2024 regular election nomination. Sen. Martins, twice a congressional candidate, has rebuked approaches for him to run again.

State Assemblyman Michael Durso (R-Massapequa Park) might be a possible special election nominee, or former state Assemblyman Mike LiPetri. There are also several Nassau County elected Republicans, such as County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip, who also could be considered for the congressional bid.

Regardless of who wins the special election, the individual will have to immediately pivot into a regular election campaign. The New York 2024 candidate filing deadline will be scheduled for a date in late March for the June 25th primary election.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates NY-3 as D+4, but Dave’s Redistricting App calculates a more favorable Democratic partisan lean, 56.4D – 42.0R. President Biden posted a 53.6 – 45.4% victory here opposite Donald Trump in 2020. 

Though the traditional bench post figures clearly favor the Democrats, Republicans have been making significant gains throughout Long Island in the most recent elections. In addition to electing Mr. Santos in 2022, freshman Rep. Anthony D’Esposito* (R-Island Park), who was one of the leaders of the Santos expulsion movement, also scored an upset 2022 victory in the adjoining congressional district, an entity far more Democratic than District 3. 

While President Joe Biden won the district as noted above, 2022 Republican gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin, who represented the eastern-most Long Island congressional district for eight years, carried NY-3 with a 56-44% margin largely on his anti-crime platform. Nassau County also elected Republican Bruce Blakeman as County Executive in ‘22, defeating a Democratic incumbent. 

Therefore, even with Mr. Suozzi as the Democratic congressional nominee, a strong Republican candidate would have the ability to do well. Odds certainly favor Suozzi to be chosen as the party nominee and for the special election, but such a victory might not be in the landslide proportion to which we had become accustomed during most of the last decade.

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