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Suozzi, Pilip face off in debate for George Santos' old Long Island seat

Ahead of Tuesday’s special election on Long Island, Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi clashed in a News 12-hosted debate
News12 Long Island
Ahead of Tuesday’s special election on Long Island, Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi clashed in a News 12-hosted debate.

The special election to replace George Santos in New York’s 3rd congressional district could narrow the Republican majority in the U.S. House. The tight race is a toss-up between Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi, and will likely hinge on voter turnout.

The candidates faced off in a heated debate Thursday night hosted by News12 Long Island, where the migrant crisis at the southern border played a prominent role.

Pilip, a two-term Nassau County legislator, blamed Democrats like Suozzi for the recent influx of immigrants despite the successful effort by the GOP this week to block a bipartisan border plan.

“You created this issue,” Pilip told Suozzi, who previously represented the district from 2017 to 2022 before leaving for an unsuccessful run in the Democratic gubernatorial race in New York. “You were there. You were in charge of this problem, Tom. Admit this. You have to admit this.”

Pilip tried to paint Suozzi, a moderate Democrat, as a member of the “Squad” in Congress — an informal group of representatives who tend to be the most progressive in the House.

“For you to suggest I’m a member of the ‘Squad’ is about as believable as you being a member of George Santos’ volleyball team,” Suozzi shot back, pointing out his record of bucking his party on issues like crime and immigration.

He accused Pilip of being too inexperienced and unprepared for Congress.

On abortion, Philip said, “It is a personal decision, a personal choice,” but the mother of seven would not call herself pro-choice despite being asked repeatedly. Ultimately, she said she would not support a nationwide abortion ban but called herself pro-life.

Suozzi said he’s the candidate with a record that voters can study, and his opponent is a political unknown.

“[Pilip] doesn’t come out and speak in public and has done very little to give specifics on her ideas as we saw in today’s debate,” he said.

The special election is Tuesday. Early voting continues through Sunday.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.