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Mazi Melesa Pilip, Tom Suozzi ad wars begin in 3rd District special election

January 12, 2024

Publication: Newsday

By: Tom Brune

Credit: Craig Ruttle; Howard Schnapp

WASHINGTON — The TV and digital ad war has begun between the camps of Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip as they begin to ramp up their campaigns in the Feb. 13 special election to replace George Santos in the 3rd Congressional District.

The ads sponsored by both campaigns and by Suozzi’s allied Democratic PACs paint their opponents as extreme and tie them to positions that are unpopular with many of the districts’ moderate voters.

Farmingdale State College political scientist Christopher Malone said those ads target “voters in the center who may lean slightly right or slightly left that eschew the partisan extremes on both sides and who want someone who puts Long Island first before Washington politicians.”

Based on records and past statements, here are fact checks on both sides’ ads.

Suozzi: ‘Common Ground’

Suozzi’s only campaign ad depicts him as a problem solver.

Claim: Suozzi worked across the aisle.

Finding: His legislative record shows he did.

Claim: Suozzi sought better health care for veterans.

Finding: Suozzi worked with then-Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to get federal support for a Northport VA rehab and backed bills to help veterans.

Claim: Suozzi took on polluters and helped obtain $33 million in federal funds for Long Island’s environment.

Finding: Suozzi joined the New York delegation to obtain $31 million in federal funds for Long Island Sound cleanup, and he won more than $2 million for local projects.

Claim: Suozzi led the fight to bring economic relief to suburban families.

Finding: Suozzi played a key role in passing a bill to lift the SALT cap in the House. The Senate did not pass it.

Pilip: ‘Mazi Pilip Will Stand Up to the Squad’

The Pilip campaign’s only ad ties Suozzi to the Squad, a left-leaning Democratic group.

Claim: Suozzi asked to join the Squad. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Brooklyn) said, “You’re in.”

Finding: On MSNBC on July 14, 2019, Suozzi criticized then-President Donald Trump for saying Squad members should return to their “totally broken and crime-infested places.” Suozzi said, “I don’t agree with all the politics of the Squad, but today I want to be an honorary member of the Squad.” Ocasio-Cortez said he was “in,” but he is not a member.

Claim: As Nassau County executive, Suozzi passed the largest tax increase in history, raising “property taxes by $200 million.”

Finding: He did. Suozzi led the Nassau County legislature in passing $200 million in property tax hikes and an energy-use tax to help the county recover from a $300 million deficit and billions in debt.

Claim: Suozzi made Nassau a “sanctuary city” and “kicked ICE out of Nassau County.”

Finding: In a 2022 governor’s race debate, Suozzi said, “When I was county executive of Nassau County, I kicked ICE out of Nassau County.” He did that after what he called a “botched” ICE raid in 2007 that caught only six of 96 fugitives. Suozzi did not declare Nassau County a “sanctuary county.”

Claim: Suozzi helped President Joe Biden let millions of illegal migrants cross the border.

Finding: In 2021, Biden reversed most Trump restrictions on immigration and border crossings. Suozzi voted against Republican bills to preserve them and for bills allowing legal status for farmworkers and prohibiting presidents from barring entry based on religion. Suozzi stated support for stronger border security while in Congress.

House Majority PAC: ‘Deliver’

The ad highlights what it calls Suozzi’s “commonsense solutions.”

Claim: Working with both parties to strengthen the border and solve the migrant crisis.

Finding: Suozzi and former Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) proposed a compromise bill.

Claim: Suozzi strengthened local police.

Finding: In Congress, Suozzi voted for bills to fund and train police as well as for police reform after the death of George Floyd. As Nassau County executive, Suozzi battled with local police unions over pay and staffing.

Claim: Suozzi delivered record low crime rates.

Finding: The index crime rate dropped during Suozzi’s eight years as Nassau County executive, state data shows.

King demanded the Suozzi campaign take down the ad and stop using his picture. The ad sponsor — the House Majority PAC, which must work separately from the campaign — declined.

DCCC: ‘Hand-picked’

This ad opposing Pilip opens with photos of four lawmakers aligned with Trump — House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

Claim: MAGA Republicans hand-picked their candidate for Congress. The ad cites a Dec. 14 Newsday article quoting New York State and Nassau County Democratic chair Jay Jacobs saying Pilip is “aligned with MAGA Republicans.”

Finding: Nassau County Republican chair Joseph Cairo and Queens chair Tony Nunziato chose Pilip.

Claim: Pilip supports cuts to Social Security, forcing seniors to pay more and retire later, cuts to law enforcement jobs and deep cuts to veteran benefits.

Finding: The ad bases those claims on four Republican-proposed budgets that failed in Congress. Pilip has not said if she would back those budgets if reintroduced. Pilip’s 10-Point Plan states: “Mazi will work to restrict spending, cut waste, eliminate unnecessary regulations, and create new jobs.”

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