Republicans lose special election focused on Israel despite running Ethiopian born Israeli who served in the IDF

Congressional candidates Mazi Pilip, left, and Tom Suozzi, right, at a debate hosted by News 12 on Long Island, Feb. 8, 2024. (Courtesy/News 12)

Former US Congressman Tom Suozzi (D) has beaten Nassau County legislator Mazi Pilip (R) in the special election to replace former Congressman George Santos (R).

Context: Santos was expelled from Congress back in December after being accused by prosecutors of various financial misdeeds. He came under fire after his election in 2022 when it was revealed he lied about various aspects of his biography from his work history and sexual identity to being Jewish and the descendant of Holocaust survivors.

The Election: The special election took place in New York’s 3rd Congressional District which includes parts Queens and Nassau County. Despite only 13% of the district’s population being Jewish, both candidates made supporting Israel and fighting antisemitism the center of their campaigns.

Republicans nominated Nassau County legislator Mazi Pilip, an Ethiopian-born Orthodox Jew who served in the Israeli Defense Forces.

  • Pilip became involved in US politics in 2021 because of the antisemitism she claims her son faced in middle school.
  • Despite being elected on Republican and Conservative party lines, public records indicate she remains a registered Democrat.

Democrats nominated former US Congressman Tom Suozzi, who while not Jewish himself, has deep ties to the Jewish community and has pitched himself as the stronger supporter of Israel despite Pilip’s direct Isreali ties. Suozzi even took a weekend long trip to Israel back in December to show his support of Israel in the wake of October 7th.

  • “I am trying to demonstrate my unequivocal support for, and solidarity with, Israel and Jewish people around the world during this difficult time, and to hear firsthand about the resolve of the Israeli people and explore how the US can further assist our democratic ally in this fight to eliminate Hamas.”

Why this matters: Suozzi’s victory could serve a bellwether for the 2024 Presidential election. While US President Biden won the district in 2020 by 8%, Republicans have dominated the district ever since. With George Santos winning the district during the 2022 midterm elections and local Republican candidates doing well in the 2023 elections.