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Editorial: Suozzi for the 3rd Congressional District

January 29, 2024

Publication: The Island 360

The special election race for George Santos’ seat in the 3rd Congressional District is particularly important and especially clear-cut for many reasons.

Let’s start with the clear-cut part.  On the merits, Tom Suozzi should easily win this race and has our strong endorsement.

Suozzi represented the 3rd district well for six years, establishing his bona fides as a centrist Democrat by serving as vice chair of the bipartisan Problem Solver Caucus and delivering federal money to his district.

He stepped down to make an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor against Kathy Hochul, the incumbent.

Before that, Suozzi served eight years as Nassau’s executive, helping right the county’s finances after it nearly went bankrupt under Republican leadership and required a bailout from the state.

He served four terms before that as mayor of Glen Cove.

Suozzi has also been transparent about sensible, reasoned positions on the issues, participating in interviews with the media and attending civic association meet-and-greets. He has also agreed to participate in numerous debates.

In other words, Suozzi is an experienced elected official with an extensive knowledge of the district, a long record of achievement and a willingness and ability to address the issues in depth.

Contrast this with his Republican opponent, Mazi Melesa Pilip.

Pilip has an inspiring biography – a black Ethiopian Orthodox Jew who fled with her family to Israel, where she served as a gunsmith in an Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper unit, went to college and came to the United States where she worked at her husband’s medical practice while raising seven children.

But Pilip’s government experience consists of only two years as a Nassau County legislator for which she has little to show.

Adding to our concern is her unwillingness to discuss the issues –  with the media, at civic meetings or in debates.

At a press conference she held in Queens last week, Republican Rep. Anthony D’Esposito spoke for 14 minutes and answered questions about the southern border while Pilip spoke for four minutes and ducked all questions.

The only debate she has agreed to participate in – on News Channel 12 – will take place five days before voting takes place on Feb. 13 and five days after early voting begins. And the debate will not be available for viewing in Queens, which represents 20% of a district that includes northern Nassau County and then swings down to Massapequa.

Pilip has instead engaged in posting standard national Republican talking points on social media, such as pledging to focus on the economy, fighting inflation, securing the southern border and creating jobs.

Other than the southern border most of these issues are not problems, according to the latest economic news, and in no case has Pilip actually explained how she would help fix these problems.

She has maintained her steadfast support of Israel, but not said what that means.

Pilip, who is also running as the choice of the Conservative Party, which opposes all abortions, said she is pro-life while opposing a national abortion ban.

But she has not said whether she supports a 13-week national ban or even a six-week ban as has been implemented in some Republican-controlled states.

Suozzi, like Pilip, supports the release of hostages in Gaza, but also backs a two-state solution, which is supported by the Biden administration, the European Union and surrounding Arab states as the ultimate path to long-term peace but opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Suozzi also supports codifying Roe v. Wade abortion protections nationally.

Pilip’s unwillingness, or inability, to say where she stands on the issues is a slap in the face of voters – Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Any candidate running for office should at a minimum be willing and able to explain his or her positions.

It is hard not to conclude that Pilip is ignorant of the issues that she would face in Congress, that the Republican Party is covering for her ignorance and that she would be a rubber-stamp for a dysfunctional Republican leadership in the thrall of former President Trump if elected.

This is unacceptable for someone seeking to take the place of Santos, who was expelled from the House after he was elected to represent the 3rd District by lying to Nassau and Queens voters about almost everything involving himself.

Santos went on to be charged 23 times by federal prosecutors and accused of numerous violations that may have included federal crimes by the House Ethics Committee.

In the process, voters in the 3rd District became a national laughingstock – and for more than a year they have had no effective representation in Congress.

The Nassau County Republican Party, which twice endorsed Santos for Congress, said they subjected Pilip to extensive scrutiny, including from three outside research firms, before making her their choice.

But incredibly, financial questions have been raised about Pilip’s finances.

In an amended financial disclosure report, Pilip removed almost $90,000 in personal income from her husband’s medical practice where she worked  and added thousands of dollars in stocks and other assets to her own income.

Pilip filed the new report with the House of Representatives clerk’s office last week two days after her original one was filed due to the inaccuracies, according to her campaign.

Discrepancies were also found between her May Nassau County financial disclosure and her recent federal financial disclosure for the special election, according to Newsday.

Pilip did participate in a one-on-one interview with Blank Slate Media when running for re-election as a county legislator in October.

But at the interview, Pilip said on virtually all issues that she deferred to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who had perhaps not coincidentally served in 2020 as the county Republican Party’s liaison to Trump’s re-election campaign.

With no evidence to the contrary, we think it is fair to assume that Pilip will support the MAGA cause whatever the particulars.

Pilip’s campaign – and main talking points – have recently been supported by the House Republican Super PAC’s $2.3 million in ugly attack ads that echo Trump when he descended the escalator in Trump Town in 2015 to announce his campaign for president.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.,” Trump said then. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems [to  the United States].  They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Fast forward to the scare-mongering ads that blame Suozzi for helping Hochul, in one commercial, and Biden, in another, for creating the crisis at the border with gun-carrying “illegals” murdering Americans with guns on our streets.

Never mind that immigration policy has been a problem for two decades. And that the murder rate in this country has seen a record drop in the past year. And that most of the people coming into the country are here legally under a broken asylum system. And that Nassau remains one of the safest counties in the United States. And that immigrants – legal and otherwise- commit fewer crimes than the average American.

More important Biden has vowed to shut down the border until order is restored under a bipartisan immigration agreement reached in the Senate that Republicans say is a once-a-generation agreement that will not have the votes next year.

The reform is tied to legislation that would provide $14 billion for border aid that would include more agents to stop illegal crossings and judges to review asylum claims as well as modify the eligibility of asylum seeks among many other changes.

But House Speaker Mike Johnson, who won the speakership in a unanimous vote of Republicans, said he will oppose the legislation after Trump voiced his opposition.

Trump has been reported to be pressuring Republicans to oppose the legislation so he can campaign on immigration during the presidential race.

This means that what the Republicans are calling a crisis of migrants crossing the southern border and an influx of fentanyl that is killing many Americans will continue for the next year. So Trump as well as Pilip would have a campaign issue.

Johnson’s opposition to the immigration legislation also jeopardizes aid to Ukraine, Israel, humanitarian aid to Gaza and money to support allies in the Far East.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page said last week that if Johnson prevented aid from reaching Ukraine, a democratic ally would lose its heroic fight against Russian aggression. The Journal likened the abandonment of an ally in this case to the fall of Saigon in 1975 in terms of lost national prestige.

What does Pilip say about the legislation and Johnson’s failed leadership? Nothing.

So with Republicans currently holding a two-vote edge in the House, the consequences of the Suozzi-Pilip race are greater than the average congressional race.

Republican turnout in non-presidential election years is usually higher than Democrat turnout in part because the Nassau GOP controls every level of government – even if registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a large margin.

And Republican scare tactics on immigration and crime have been effective in the past.

But given the importance of this race to the district and the nation, voters should not let this happen.

Suozzi is a proven leader able to work across the aisle to deliver results for his district and the nation.

We strongly endorse Tom Suozzi for Congress.

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