ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday selected Feb. 13 for a special election to replace expelled Rep. George Santos, setting up a 70-day sprint for a contest with national implications.
By setting it just ahead of the Presidents Day holiday, Hochul chose the date fellow Democrats wanted to try to maximize turnout.
Santos, a Republican facing a 23-count criminal indictment centering on campaign-finance irregularities, made history Friday when he became only the sixth member of Congress to be expelled.
A bipartisan, 311-114 vote put an end to his scandal-scarred 11-month stint representing New York’s 3rd Congressional District in Nassau and Queens counties.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday selected Feb. 13 for a special election to replace Rep. George Santos, who was expelled from the U.S. House on Friday.
- The winner will serve out the remainder of Santos’ two-year term and would need to run again in November for a full term.
- The special election allows party leaders to pick their candidates. Republicans and Democrats plan to announce their selections in the coming days.
State law doesn’t give much flexibility on how many days Santos’ seat could sit vacant — Feb. 20 and Feb. 27 were Hochul’s only other options.
The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of Santos’ two-year term and would need to run again in November for a full term. It comes with an annual salary of $174,000.
The special election allows party leaders to pick their candidates.
Democrat and Republican local committees began screening candidates the day Santos was booted. Republicans said they were talking to more than 20 and expected to make a choice Friday or early next week.
Democrats are expected to designate a candidate Thursday evening — many predict former Rep. Tom Suozzi, who held the 3rd Congressional District seat for six years before leaving to run unsuccessfully for governor in 2022.
On Monday, Suozzi rolled out a string of endorsements, including six Republican mayors and an influential labor union.
Democrats also have interviewed business owner Austin Cheng and former state Sen. Anna Kaplan.
“We will be ready — Thursday, we expect to have a nominee,” Jay Jacobs, the state and Nassau County Democratic chairman, told Newsday.
He said Feb. 13 was the best option for generating turnout.
“We certainly wouldn’t want it during the holiday,” Jacobs said. “We think it’s more beneficial for us to have a shorter calendar than a drawn-out calendar and we feel good about that date.”
Republicans, having scored big wins on the Island over the last three years, also promised a winning campaign.
“The issues are with us, and we will run a superior candidate who will provide the representation that neighbors deserve,” Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo said in a statement.
GOP candidates with substantial war chests include Michael Sapraicone, a retired New York City police detective and private security company owner; Kellen Curry, a business executive and U.S. Air Force veteran; Gregory Hach, a personal injury attorney and Air Force veteran; and Daniel Norber, a small-business owner.
The 3rd is considered a swing district and will garner national attention, given the Santos saga and Republicans’ eight-seat margin in the House. The district includes about 209,000 active Democratic voters, 150,000 Republicans and 172,000 independents and minor-party members, according to the New York State Board of Elections.
Almost 80% of the district’s voters are in Nassau, with the rest in Queens. It primarily runs along Long Island Sound and Nassau’s eastern boundary down to parts of Massapequa.
The district elected Santos in 2022 but backed Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Santos' expulsion occurred weeks after a House Ethics Committee report accused him of defrauding campaign donors and using campaign money for personal expenses such as hotel stays and Botox treatments. He denied any wrongdoing.
Separately, Santos faces a 23-count federal indictment accusing him of laundering funds to pay for personal expenses, charging donors' credits cards without permission and filing false campaign statements. He has pleaded not guilty.
In a Newsday/Siena poll earlier this year, 78% of district voters said Santos should resign.