On Tuesday, voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional District will head to the polls to elect a successor to former Republican Rep. George Santos.
Santos was expelled by the House of Representatives in December. The rare move — which was supported by 105 House Republicans — came after investigators “found substantial evidence that Santos committed federal crimes, and the freshman lawmaker was handed a 23-count indictment in October,” as The Federalist’s Tristan Justice previously summarized. Notably, Santos has yet to be convicted of a crime.
While New York may be more than 2,000 miles away from El Paso, Texas, the ongoing invasion at the U.S.-Mexico border is certainly on the minds of N.Y.-3 voters heading into Tuesday’s election. Speaking with The Federalist, Republican candidate Mazi Melesa Pilip said voters “are not happy” with President Biden’s open border policies and noted how the crisis is the No. 1 issue among the district’s residents.
“When you have [hundreds of thousands of] illegal immigrants, illegal drugs making their way from the border to here,” that’s a “big concern” for families, Pilip said. “A lot of families want to raise their children in a safe environment.”
Born in Ethiopia, Pilip immigrated to Israel with her family at the age of 12. Upon reaching adulthood, she signed up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and later attended the University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University, where she acquired her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Following her military service and graduation from college, Pilip immigrated to the United States, settling in Great Neck, New York, where she now resides with her husband and seven children.
Despite being registered as a Democrat, Pilip has served in the Nassau County Legislature as a Republican since being elected in 2021. Pilip said that over time, she realized the Democrat Party was “not the same” party she once knew and no longer associates herself with the left’s “progressive” policies.
“The Republican Party shares my values. … [It] cares about securing our borders, supporting law enforcement, improving quality of life, lowering taxes,” Pilip said. “It was very easy for me to associate with the Republican Party.”
Also seeking to succeed Santos is former Democrat Rep. Tom Suozzi, who previously held the seat prior to Santos but declined to run for reelection in 2022 in order to run for governor. While the New York Democrat defeated Santos by eight points in the 2020 contest, Santos won with an almost eight-point margin in 2022.
While often unreliable and used to shape public opinion rather than measure it, polling has indicated that Suozzi enjoys a slight lead over Pilip heading into Tuesday’s election. A Siena College survey conducted from Feb. 3-6, for example, showed Suozzi leading Pilip by 4 points (48 to 44 percent), with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent. Seven percent of those polled declined to say who they’d support or said they “don’t know” yet.
Interestingly, the same poll showed that if the 2024 presidential election were held today, respondents “give former President Donald Trump a 5-point advantage over President Joe Biden.”
While trailing slightly in polling overall, Pilip enjoys a strong advantage over Suozzi when it comes to voters’ views on which candidate would handle Biden’s border crisis more effectively. When asked by Siena who would be more effective at “[a]ddressing the influx of migrants into the United States,” 49 percent of respondents said Pilip, compared to 40 percent who said Suozzo. An Emerson poll published last month showed that immigration is the biggest focal point in the race, with 26 percent of N.Y.-3 voters rating it as their top issue.
In an attempt to bring some accountability to the Biden administration, House Republicans mounted an effort on Wednesday to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for facilitating the ongoing crisis. With Santos’ seat vacant and three Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the resolution, the bid failed. (A fourth Republican, Utah Rep. Blake Moore, switched his vote to “no” at the last second in order to allow the measure to be reconsidered next week.)
Had she been a member of Congress, Pilip said she would have voted to impeach Mayorkas, adding that the secretary must be held accountable for helping “create this mess of illegal immigrants coming into our country.”
“He didn’t inform Congress when all this mess started, and he shouldn’t be” in office, Pilip said.
Pilip emphasized the significance of Tuesday’s race, especially given House Republicans’ slim majority.
“We need to have an effective government [and] you can have that when you have a strong majority,” Pilip said. “Right now, [Republicans] are having a hard time passing almost anything.”
“People want change. They are sick and tired of old politics,” she added.