Mazi Melesa Pilip, left, the Republican candidate in the Feb....

Mazi Melesa Pilip, left, the Republican candidate in the Feb. 13 special election in the 3rd Congressional District, and her Democratic opponent, Tom Suozzi. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

WASHINGTON — As Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican nominee Mazi Melesa Pilip court voters in the special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, they're facing questions — and criticism — about their stances on two major national issues: immigration and abortion access.

Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive who also served three terms representing the 3rd District, is the target of TV ads and mailers from national Republican-aligned groups casting him as soft on immigration enforcement. Suozzi is pushing back with commercials touting his House votes in 2018 in favor of increased funding for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which enforces immigration laws.

Pilip, a second-term Nassau County legislator from Great Neck, is pushing back against ads from Democrat-aligned groups that are seeking to tie her to hard-line House conservatives who back a national abortion ban. Pilip, who describes herself as religious and “pro-life,” says she will not support a national ban if elected.

Suozzi's and Pilip's effort to define their stances on abortion and immigration in the Feb. 13 election come as Democrats take aim at former President Donald Trump for appointing conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who voted to overturn federal abortion protections, and as Republicans blame Democratic President Joe Biden for the influx of migrants at the U.S. southern border.

“Most times these special elections might turn more on local issues, but the two winning national issues are in competition” with each other in the special election campaign, Christopher Malone, a political science professor at Farmingdale State College, told Newsday.

“On the one side, you have immigration, and it seems to have been a winning issue for Republicans on Long Island over the last three [election] cycles ... .,” Malone said.

Also, he said, “Abortion has coursed through every special election across the country … So, even though it's not one of the top issues in terms of the polls, don't underestimate the effect that it has, which is why you see Democrats pushing it because they know it's been a winning issue for them.”

New York City’s migrant crisis has emerged as a key issue in the 3rd District race, with polls showing the problems at the southern border a top concern of voters.

Suozzi launched two television ads over the past week responding to commercials sponsored by national Republican groups questioning his support for ICE.

A television ad sponsored by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP-led political action committee, features a clip of comments by Suozzi in a debate during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2022. Suozzi recounted in the debate how as “county executive of Nassau County I kicked ICE out of Nassau County.”

The Congressional Leadership Fund recently pledged more than $2 million for ads to boost Pilip’s candidacy.

Suozzi, who served two terms as county executive, from 2002 to 2009, said in a news conference in Queens Village on Thursday: “In 2007, ICE came to Nassau County with 96 warrants and they refused to coordinate with the Nassau County Police Department and it turns out that 90 of the 96 warrants had the wrong address and they broke down the doors and went into peoples’ houses that had nothing to do with the warrants they are trying to execute.”

In a complaint filed with federal officials at the time, then-Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said ICE agents during raids mistakenly drew their guns twice on Nassau County police detectives.

John Clark, deputy assistant secretary for ICE, told Newsday in a statement in October 2007: “We're not of the opinion that anything was done wrong.”

ICE and Nassau police officials, after a meeting coordinated by then-Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), agreed to move forward, with Mulvey asking ICE to work with him directly on any future operations, according to a Newsday report.

A Suozzi campaign ad released Wednesday notes his vote as a House member for increased funding for ICE. The ad features a clip of Suozzi speaking to Fox News in July 2018 and asserting: “I support ICE and I think that they have an important job to do in this country securing our border, making sure people don’t overstay,” Suozzi says.

Suozzi repeatedly has said stemming the flow of migrants will require action by both political parties. He has pointed to an April 2019 immigration reform proposal he drafted with King as an example of his willingness to work across the aisle on the issue.

Pilip and Nassau Republicans also are honing in on immigration as a prominent issue in the 3rd District campaign.

“When you think about the migrants that are coming in, hundreds and thousands … it's a foreign invasion of our country,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman told a crowd of county Republicans on Jan. 4 at the The Lannin restaurant at Eisenhower Park.

Pilip, who was born in Ethiopia and migrated to Israel as a child before eventually moving to the United States, has described herself as a “legal immigrant.”

At a recent campaign event in Woodbury she said: “We can live [the] American dream, but it has to be done correctly.”

At a news conference Thursday outside the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, where about 1,000 migrants are being sheltered temporarily, Pilip said if elected she would work to “secure our border and invest in our brave ICE agents.”

Pilip was asked about calls by Trump, the leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination this year, for congressional Republicans to reject a possible Senate deal for increased border security funding as well as defense funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Pilip only expressed support for a House Republican immigration bill,  H.R. 2, that does not have the votes needed to pass in the Senate.

“We have to see what the deal is and that we should have a deal first and foremost to protect our borders,” Pilip said.

Democrat-aligned political action committees have used TV ads and mailers to try to tie Pilip to calls by House conservatives for a national abortion ban.

Democratic groups also are taking aim at Pilip for accepting the state Conservative Party ballot line, noting the party's platform calls for the repeal of New York's “expanded abortion law.” That's a reference to a series of measures signed by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022 to protect access to abortions. The laws shield patients and abortion providers from criminal charges.

At a recent campaign event at the Chabad of Oyster Bay in Woodbury, Pilip said Democrats had mischaracterized her views about abortion rights.

Asked to define her stance on the issue, Pilip said she would not support a national abortion ban.

Pilip told Newsday after the event: “Even though that I am religious, I have seven children, I am not going to impose my own beliefs to any woman. I'm not going to support a national abortion ban.”

Pilip did not answer directly when asked whether she supports codifying Roe v. Wade. In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

“I have respect for our Supreme Court. It went back to the [states], and each state can make that decision based on the people. The people will vote,” she said.

Suozzi has said he would support codification of Roe v. Wade, and his campaign has touted his endorsement by Planned Parenthood.

But Suozzi faced criticism from abortion-rights supporters in past campaigns for his previous support of the Hyde Amendment that barred federal funding for abortions. Suozzi had called it “settled law” because it was enacted in 1977.

After a pressure campaign from constituents in his House district in 2019, Suozzi co-sponsored and voted for a bill to repeal the Hyde Amendment. He also voted for the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act that passed the then-Democratic majority House in 2022. The measure, which never was taken up by the Senate, called for barring states from interfering with those seeking out-of-state abortions.

The lines of attack over immigration come as recent state and local polls show increasing concern about the issue among voters, particularly as New York City grapples with an influx of migrants bused from Texas, Arizona and Florida.

An Emerson College Polling/Pix11 poll released Jan. 18 found immigration ranked as the top concern among voters in the 3rd District: 26% of voters said immigration was the most important issue to them in the special election, compared with 22% who cited economy and 4% who cited abortion access.

A Siena College poll released Monday found more than 80% of voters statewide described the migrant influx as a serious problem.

“It’s certainly top of mind for voters,” said Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute.

Levy told Newsday concerns about immigration are more pronounced among voters in New York City’s suburbs, including the 3rd District, which includes Nassau County's North Shore and portions of northeast Queens County.

“If you look just strictly at the suburbs of New York City … that number is up a little bit at 87%, so it's more top of mind to residents of [3rd District] that the migrant influx is a problem,” Levy said. “They're desperately unsatisfied with the job that government at every level is doing.”

While the issue of abortion access has helped Democrats win critical elections elsewhere in the United States over the past two years, Siena found it did little to move the needle on Long Island in 2022 races for Congress. That year, Republicans picked up two seats with Anthony D’Esposito’s victory over Democrat Laura Gillen in the 4th District in Nassau, and expelled GOP Rep. George Santos’ defeat of Democrat Robert Zimmerman in the 3rd.

“What we found in previous elections is that New Yorkers are somewhat sanguine when it comes to the abortion issue because they don't feel threatened here in New York,” Levy said.

With Scott Eidler and Paul LaRocco

WASHINGTON — As Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican nominee Mazi Melesa Pilip court voters in the special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, they're facing questions — and criticism — about their stances on two major national issues: immigration and abortion access.

Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive who also served three terms representing the 3rd District, is the target of TV ads and mailers from national Republican-aligned groups casting him as soft on immigration enforcement. Suozzi is pushing back with commercials touting his House votes in 2018 in favor of increased funding for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which enforces immigration laws.

Pilip, a second-term Nassau County legislator from Great Neck, is pushing back against ads from Democrat-aligned groups that are seeking to tie her to hard-line House conservatives who back a national abortion ban. Pilip, who describes herself as religious and “pro-life,” says she will not support a national ban if elected.

Suozzi's and Pilip's effort to define their stances on abortion and immigration in the Feb. 13 election come as Democrats take aim at former President Donald Trump for appointing conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who voted to overturn federal abortion protections, and as Republicans blame Democratic President Joe Biden for the influx of migrants at the U.S. southern border.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • In the 3rd Congressional District special election between Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican nominee Mazi Melesa Pilip, two major national issues — immigration and abortion — are roiling the race.
  • Suozzi is pushing back against TV ads and mailers from GOP-aligned groups that cast him as soft on immigration enforcement.
  • Pilip is disputing ads from Democrat-aligned groups seeking to tie her to hard-line House conservatives who back a national abortion ban.

“Most times these special elections might turn more on local issues, but the two winning national issues are in competition” with each other in the special election campaign, Christopher Malone, a political science professor at Farmingdale State College, told Newsday.

“On the one side, you have immigration, and it seems to have been a winning issue for Republicans on Long Island over the last three [election] cycles ... .,” Malone said.

Also, he said, “Abortion has coursed through every special election across the country … So, even though it's not one of the top issues in terms of the polls, don't underestimate the effect that it has, which is why you see Democrats pushing it because they know it's been a winning issue for them.”

Immigration

New York City’s migrant crisis has emerged as a key issue in the 3rd District race, with polls showing the problems at the southern border a top concern of voters.

Suozzi launched two television ads over the past week responding to commercials sponsored by national Republican groups questioning his support for ICE.

A television ad sponsored by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP-led political action committee, features a clip of comments by Suozzi in a debate during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2022. Suozzi recounted in the debate how as “county executive of Nassau County I kicked ICE out of Nassau County.”

The Congressional Leadership Fund recently pledged more than $2 million for ads to boost Pilip’s candidacy.

Suozzi, who served two terms as county executive, from 2002 to 2009, said in a news conference in Queens Village on Thursday: “In 2007, ICE came to Nassau County with 96 warrants and they refused to coordinate with the Nassau County Police Department and it turns out that 90 of the 96 warrants had the wrong address and they broke down the doors and went into peoples’ houses that had nothing to do with the warrants they are trying to execute.”

In a complaint filed with federal officials at the time, then-Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said ICE agents during raids mistakenly drew their guns twice on Nassau County police detectives.

John Clark, deputy assistant secretary for ICE, told Newsday in a statement in October 2007: “We're not of the opinion that anything was done wrong.”

ICE and Nassau police officials, after a meeting coordinated by then-Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), agreed to move forward, with Mulvey asking ICE to work with him directly on any future operations, according to a Newsday report.

A Suozzi campaign ad released Wednesday notes his vote as a House member for increased funding for ICE. The ad features a clip of Suozzi speaking to Fox News in July 2018 and asserting: “I support ICE and I think that they have an important job to do in this country securing our border, making sure people don’t overstay,” Suozzi says.

Suozzi repeatedly has said stemming the flow of migrants will require action by both political parties. He has pointed to an April 2019 immigration reform proposal he drafted with King as an example of his willingness to work across the aisle on the issue.

Pilip and Nassau Republicans also are honing in on immigration as a prominent issue in the 3rd District campaign.

“When you think about the migrants that are coming in, hundreds and thousands … it's a foreign invasion of our country,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman told a crowd of county Republicans on Jan. 4 at the The Lannin restaurant at Eisenhower Park.

Pilip, who was born in Ethiopia and migrated to Israel as a child before eventually moving to the United States, has described herself as a “legal immigrant.”

At a recent campaign event in Woodbury she said: “We can live [the] American dream, but it has to be done correctly.”

At a news conference Thursday outside the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, where about 1,000 migrants are being sheltered temporarily, Pilip said if elected she would work to “secure our border and invest in our brave ICE agents.”

Pilip was asked about calls by Trump, the leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination this year, for congressional Republicans to reject a possible Senate deal for increased border security funding as well as defense funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Pilip only expressed support for a House Republican immigration bill,  H.R. 2, that does not have the votes needed to pass in the Senate.

“We have to see what the deal is and that we should have a deal first and foremost to protect our borders,” Pilip said.

Abortion

Democrat-aligned political action committees have used TV ads and mailers to try to tie Pilip to calls by House conservatives for a national abortion ban.

Democratic groups also are taking aim at Pilip for accepting the state Conservative Party ballot line, noting the party's platform calls for the repeal of New York's “expanded abortion law.” That's a reference to a series of measures signed by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022 to protect access to abortions. The laws shield patients and abortion providers from criminal charges.

At a recent campaign event at the Chabad of Oyster Bay in Woodbury, Pilip said Democrats had mischaracterized her views about abortion rights.

Asked to define her stance on the issue, Pilip said she would not support a national abortion ban.

Pilip told Newsday after the event: “Even though that I am religious, I have seven children, I am not going to impose my own beliefs to any woman. I'm not going to support a national abortion ban.”

Pilip did not answer directly when asked whether she supports codifying Roe v. Wade. In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

“I have respect for our Supreme Court. It went back to the [states], and each state can make that decision based on the people. The people will vote,” she said.

Suozzi has said he would support codification of Roe v. Wade, and his campaign has touted his endorsement by Planned Parenthood.

But Suozzi faced criticism from abortion-rights supporters in past campaigns for his previous support of the Hyde Amendment that barred federal funding for abortions. Suozzi had called it “settled law” because it was enacted in 1977.

After a pressure campaign from constituents in his House district in 2019, Suozzi co-sponsored and voted for a bill to repeal the Hyde Amendment. He also voted for the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act that passed the then-Democratic majority House in 2022. The measure, which never was taken up by the Senate, called for barring states from interfering with those seeking out-of-state abortions.

Polling

The lines of attack over immigration come as recent state and local polls show increasing concern about the issue among voters, particularly as New York City grapples with an influx of migrants bused from Texas, Arizona and Florida.

An Emerson College Polling/Pix11 poll released Jan. 18 found immigration ranked as the top concern among voters in the 3rd District: 26% of voters said immigration was the most important issue to them in the special election, compared with 22% who cited economy and 4% who cited abortion access.

A Siena College poll released Monday found more than 80% of voters statewide described the migrant influx as a serious problem.

“It’s certainly top of mind for voters,” said Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute.

Levy told Newsday concerns about immigration are more pronounced among voters in New York City’s suburbs, including the 3rd District, which includes Nassau County's North Shore and portions of northeast Queens County.

“If you look just strictly at the suburbs of New York City … that number is up a little bit at 87%, so it's more top of mind to residents of [3rd District] that the migrant influx is a problem,” Levy said. “They're desperately unsatisfied with the job that government at every level is doing.”

While the issue of abortion access has helped Democrats win critical elections elsewhere in the United States over the past two years, Siena found it did little to move the needle on Long Island in 2022 races for Congress. That year, Republicans picked up two seats with Anthony D’Esposito’s victory over Democrat Laura Gillen in the 4th District in Nassau, and expelled GOP Rep. George Santos’ defeat of Democrat Robert Zimmerman in the 3rd.

“What we found in previous elections is that New Yorkers are somewhat sanguine when it comes to the abortion issue because they don't feel threatened here in New York,” Levy said.

With Scott Eidler and Paul LaRocco

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