Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is surrounded by journalists as he...

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the U.S. Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on Friday in Washington, D.C. Credit: Getty Images/Kevin Dietsch

The monthslong scramble for the 3rd Congressional District seat held by Rep. George Santos is nearing an end as Republican and Democratic leaders focus on narrowing a list of nearly two dozen candidates for an upcoming special election.

Twenty-one had filed financial disclosures with the Federal Election Commission to run as of Tuesday, and party leaders said the number rose as Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) was expelled from the U.S. House Friday.

With the House so closely divided and a national spotlight on Santos' embattled tenure, a special election has been highly anticipated. Expected in February, it would allow party leaders to pick their candidates — there would be no primary for the special election.

Democratic and Republican party leaders said they would act quickly to name candidates. Nine Democrats and nine Republicans have filed to run. One candidate is listed as an independent, one as a Conservative and another is unaffiliated with a party, according to the FEC.

Democrats were set to screen three potential candidates Friday: Former Rep. Tom Suozzi, former state Sen. Anna Kaplan and business owner Austin Cheng, state and Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said.

Cheng leads the Democratic candidates in fundraising with $459,060 cash on hand, according to FEC filings covering the period ending Sept. 30, with Kaplan close behind. Suozzi and Democratic candidate Scott Livingston, a nanotech entrepreneur, have at least $50,000 on hand.

Suozzi held the seat from 2016 until he stepped down to run in the Democratic gubernatorial primary against Hochul in 2022. After he announced in October he would try to reclaim the seat, three other Democrats — professional fundraiser Zak Malamed, Nassau County Legis. Josh Lafazan (D-Syosset) and St. John's law professor Will Murphy — withdrew and endorsed him.

On the GOP side, Michael Sapraicone, a retired New York City police detective and private security company owner, leads in fundraising with $519,802 on hand. Others with substantial war chests include 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.

Nassau County Republican Committee chairman Joseph Cairo said there is no "shortlist," but preference would go to a candidate from Nassau, where a majority of the district lies.

"We want to include everyone in the screening process who has an interest in being screened," Cairo said.

Cairo and Jacobs said there are candidates who would be screened in addition to those who have filed with the FEC. But, Jacobs said, "Time is of the essence and it's not going to be possible to vet every individual no matter how good they think they are for this position at the moment."

Party officials have said Nassau County Legis. Mazi Melesa Pilip (R-Great Neck) has considered running. Businessman Robert Zimmerman, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully against Santos in 2022, also has been mentioned, although Jacobs said Zimmerman likely would not compete for the special election.

Cairo said candidates would come in for interviews and undergo internal background checks. A private research firm for a separate background check will be hired, according to the party — a change from its vetting process when Santos campaigned.

In addition to Cairo, there are seven or eight people who will have direct influence over the choice for the party, including former Rep. Peter King and GOP committee spokesman Mike Deery, Cairo said.

"We'll have a good cross section of people in our party who represent different groups and come from different parts of the congressional district," Cairo said.

Jacobs said a decision will be made with Queens County Democratic chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Hochul. Jacobs said Hochul’s view of the party’s candidate is “extremely important, as is Hakeem Jeffries’."

The two-year term comes with an annual salary of $174,000. Republicans hold an eight-vote majority in the House.

Santos, 35,  was sworn into office Jan. 7, weeks after he was exposed by The New York Times for fabricating key elements of his life story on the campaign trail.

Nassau Republicans denounced him in early January, and the House Ethics Committee started its investigation Feb. 28. Federal prosecutors have charged him with 23 criminal counts tied primarily to his 2022 campaign, including wire fraud and identity theft. Santos has pleaded not guilty.

The Ethics Committee report, released Nov. 16, accused him of engaging in “unlawful conduct” to deceive campaign donors and campaign fundraising organizations “for his own personal financial profit." Santos has denied any wrongdoing and said he was misled by his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks of Shirley.

After the report's release, Santos said he would not seek re-election, and more lawmakers who had voted against two previous expulsion attempts said they would back a third one. He was expelled in a 311-114 vote, with two others voting present.

Although a special election for his successor means a shortened time frame, "This will not be an underfunded campaign on either side," Jacobs said.

"It's not going to be such that voters are not going to be aware of this special election," Jacobs said. "Mailboxes will be inundated. Social media flooded. We'll be knocking on doors and sending text messages."

With Scott Eidler and Yancey Roy

The monthslong scramble for the 3rd Congressional District seat held by Rep. George Santos is nearing an end as Republican and Democratic leaders focus on narrowing a list of nearly two dozen candidates for an upcoming special election.

Twenty-one had filed financial disclosures with the Federal Election Commission to run as of Tuesday, and party leaders said the number rose as Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) was expelled from the U.S. House Friday.

With the House so closely divided and a national spotlight on Santos' embattled tenure, a special election has been highly anticipated. Expected in February, it would allow party leaders to pick their candidates — there would be no primary for the special election.

Democratic and Republican party leaders said they would act quickly to name candidates. Nine Democrats and nine Republicans have filed to run. One candidate is listed as an independent, one as a Conservative and another is unaffiliated with a party, according to the FEC.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Nearly two dozen candidates have filed to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat held by Rep. George Santos, ousted from Congress on Friday.
  • A special election is required under state law and expected to be scheduled for February. It allows party leaders to pick their candidates. 

  • Candidates are undergoing interviews and internal background checks. The Nassau GOP said it will hire a private research firm for a separate background check, a change from its vetting process when Santos campaigned.

Democrats were set to screen three potential candidates Friday: Former Rep. Tom Suozzi, former state Sen. Anna Kaplan and business owner Austin Cheng, state and Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said.

Cheng leads the Democratic candidates in fundraising with $459,060 cash on hand, according to FEC filings covering the period ending Sept. 30, with Kaplan close behind. Suozzi and Democratic candidate Scott Livingston, a nanotech entrepreneur, have at least $50,000 on hand.

Suozzi held the seat from 2016 until he stepped down to run in the Democratic gubernatorial primary against Hochul in 2022. After he announced in October he would try to reclaim the seat, three other Democrats — professional fundraiser Zak Malamed, Nassau County Legis. Josh Lafazan (D-Syosset) and St. John's law professor Will Murphy — withdrew and endorsed him.

On the GOP side, Michael Sapraicone, a retired New York City police detective and private security company owner, leads in fundraising with $519,802 on hand. Others with substantial war chests include 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.

Nassau County Republican Committee chairman Joseph Cairo said there is no "shortlist," but preference would go to a candidate from Nassau, where a majority of the district lies.

"We want to include everyone in the screening process who has an interest in being screened," Cairo said.

Cairo and Jacobs said there are candidates who would be screened in addition to those who have filed with the FEC. But, Jacobs said, "Time is of the essence and it's not going to be possible to vet every individual no matter how good they think they are for this position at the moment."

Party officials have said Nassau County Legis. Mazi Melesa Pilip (R-Great Neck) has considered running. Businessman Robert Zimmerman, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully against Santos in 2022, also has been mentioned, although Jacobs said Zimmerman likely would not compete for the special election.

Cairo said candidates would come in for interviews and undergo internal background checks. A private research firm for a separate background check will be hired, according to the party — a change from its vetting process when Santos campaigned.

In addition to Cairo, there are seven or eight people who will have direct influence over the choice for the party, including former Rep. Peter King and GOP committee spokesman Mike Deery, Cairo said.

"We'll have a good cross section of people in our party who represent different groups and come from different parts of the congressional district," Cairo said.

Jacobs said a decision will be made with Queens County Democratic chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Hochul. Jacobs said Hochul’s view of the party’s candidate is “extremely important, as is Hakeem Jeffries’."

The two-year term comes with an annual salary of $174,000. Republicans hold an eight-vote majority in the House.

Santos, 35,  was sworn into office Jan. 7, weeks after he was exposed by The New York Times for fabricating key elements of his life story on the campaign trail.

Nassau Republicans denounced him in early January, and the House Ethics Committee started its investigation Feb. 28. Federal prosecutors have charged him with 23 criminal counts tied primarily to his 2022 campaign, including wire fraud and identity theft. Santos has pleaded not guilty.

The Ethics Committee report, released Nov. 16, accused him of engaging in “unlawful conduct” to deceive campaign donors and campaign fundraising organizations “for his own personal financial profit." Santos has denied any wrongdoing and said he was misled by his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks of Shirley.

After the report's release, Santos said he would not seek re-election, and more lawmakers who had voted against two previous expulsion attempts said they would back a third one. He was expelled in a 311-114 vote, with two others voting present.

Although a special election for his successor means a shortened time frame, "This will not be an underfunded campaign on either side," Jacobs said.

"It's not going to be such that voters are not going to be aware of this special election," Jacobs said. "Mailboxes will be inundated. Social media flooded. We'll be knocking on doors and sending text messages."

With Scott Eidler and Yancey Roy

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Gabby Petito case settled … Long Beach wind projects approved … What's up on LI Credit: Newsday

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