Disgraced former New York Rep. George Santos has been replaced, as Thomas Suozzi won Tuesday’s special election to fill the seat after Congress expelled Santos in December. The victory brings the seat back under Democratic control, narrowing the already thin majority that Republicans hold in the House of Representatives.

Suozzi retakes 3rd District seat

On Tuesday night, The New York Times reported its projection that Suozzi had won the special election for the 3rd District of New York, which covers the Long Island area. Suozzi won by 8 percentage points against his Republican opponent. Suozzi, an experienced politician who previously held the 3rd District seat, won by embracing his reputation as a political insider and touting his experience. 

“People are sick and tired of the extremism and the finger-pointing, and nothing is getting done,” Suozzi reportedly told voters. 

He also took a hard stance on immigration, a divisive issue as New York and other cities seek to deal with growing numbers of migrants; other Democrats may do likewise in the lead-up to Election Day in November.

Advantages for Democrats

Despite the seat most recently being held by Republican Santos, the Democratic victory on Tuesday was not surprising. Suozzi, who Democrats chose to compete for the seat, was a strong choice. He held the seat from 2017 until 2023, when he retired from Congress to run an unsuccessful campaign for governor of New York. Suozzi’s earlier retirement had allowed Santos to win the open seat and flip it for Republicans. In 2020, Joe Biden won the 3rd District by 8 percentage points, indicating Democratic popularity in the area. Tuesday’s winter storm may have also helped Suozzi, as Democrats were likelier to participate in early voting. In addition, turnout on Election Day was likely lower because of the weather.

Challenges for Republicans

The disadvantages for Republicans met the advantages for Democrats in the special election. The exit of Santos in disgrace was a liability for the GOP as it attempted to hold the seat. The Republican candidate to replace Santos was Mazi Pilip, an Ethiopian Jew whose family fled to Israel when she was 12. Pilip served in the Israeli army before moving to the United States and has been a fierce supporter of Israel in the current war in Gaza. Alongside that controversial stance, Pilip was initially noncommittal concerning her opinion of Donald Trump. After Pilip’s loss, the former president used his Truth Social platform to criticize her for attempting “to ‘straddle the fence'” about him and called her a “very foolish woman.”

Suozzi’s victory over Pilip creates a situation in which the Republican majority in the House is down to a few votes. The Democrats’ win brings the party closer to retaking control of Congress later this year. It potentially provides a playbook for other Democratic candidates navigating a tough election year.