Tom Suozzi, Mazi Melesa Pilip Enter Final Stretch in Race for Santos’ Seat

(New York Daily News/TNS) — Voters in eastern Queens and Long Island are due to make their call Tuesday in a special congressional election to replace disgraced former Rep. George Santos, with Tom Suozzi and Mazi Melesa Pilip on the ballot.

The race, which has taken a negative tenor, has appeared to be less a referendum on Santos’ many lies and more a test run for some of the high-profile issues — including immigration and gun safety — that could determine November’s nationwide elections.

It has also been a study in contrasts between its two candidates.

The Democratic nominee is the 61-year-old Suozzi, a Long Island lifer, former three-term congressman and polished political operator. The Republican nominee is the Jewish Ethiopian-born Pilip, 44, a registered Democrat and county lawmaker with a scant record and minimal political experience.

Pilip, who has served in the Nassau County Legislature for two years, has sought to bludgeon Suozzi over the city’s migrant crisis, describing him as soft on the border. Her campaign has branded him “Sanctuary Suozzi.”

The immigration issue may be playing to her advantage in the swing congressional district, New York’s 3rd, which covers the city’s controversial migrant mega-shelter at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village.

Suozzi has said Pilip is misrepresenting his record.

Suozzi has some significant advantages. He has a formidable campaign war chest and the firm backing of his one-time rival Gov. Hochul, who is looking for redemption after her relatively narrow victory in 2022 was blamed for Democrats’ poor showing in New York’s midterm House races. (Santos was one of four Republicans to flip New York seats in 2022.)

But Pilip has managed to corral important endorsements down the stretch of the race, scoring support from the National Border Patrol Council and from 12 police unions, according to her campaign.

“I am honored to have earned the support of law enforcement based on my pro-police record,” Pilip said as she accepted the endorsement of the police unions on Friday. “You have my word that I will always back the blue and do everything possible to keep families safe.”

In polls released last week, Suozzi led Pilip by a few percentage points, which is within the margin of error, and experts say they expect a tight finish on Tuesday. The result may be driven by which candidate better motivates their party’s voters to head to the ballot box.

Early voting ran from Feb. 3 to Feb. 11. Polls are scheduled to stay open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

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