WASHINGTON — New York Democrats and Republicans quickly turned their attention after the House expelled Rep. George Santos on Friday to the special election that will unfold over the next three months to fill the empty 3rd Congressional District seat.
Leaders of both parties began Friday to screen prospective candidates to run in what’s shaping up to be an expensive and high-profile campaign for a seat that will determine whether the thin House Republican majority narrows.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has 10 days to formally call for a special election to replace Santos and she must set it between 70 and 80 days from her announcement, which could happen as soon as Monday.
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 district straddles Nassau and Queens counties.
“I am prepared to undertake the solemn responsibility of filling the vacancy in New York’s 3rd District by scheduling a special election. The people of Long Island and Queens deserve nothing less,” Hochul said in a statement.
Democrats planned a screening Friday evening of former Rep. Tom Suozzi, former state Sen. Anna Kaplan and local businessman Austin Cheng, said Jay Jacobs, the Nassau County and New York State Democratic chairman.
Jacobs said he would confer on candidate selection with Hochul, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Rep. Greg Meeks (D-St. Albans), whose 5thCongressional District also includes parts of Queens.
“We do hope to wrap this up by Tuesday,” Jacobs told Newsday.
Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo said, “We are interviewing candidates. We started this afternoon. As of this morning, we had 22 names. It's now grown by four or five, so we’re probably up over 25.”
Among announced candidates who will get a look from Cairo are Mike Sapraicone, a security firm owner and former police detective, and Kellen Curry, a former finance executive and U.S. Air Force officer.
After whittling down the list to the “precious few,” Cairo said, “We will do an extensive outside background check. We'll have a retainer firm to do that. Just a few to make sure that we don't have any surprises.”
Revelations about Santos' lies about his background surfaced in the news media, beginning with The New York Times, only after he was elected in November 2022.
Cairo said he hoped to have a candidate by next Friday or early the following week.
The Working Families Party and the Conservative Party also will have automatic lines on the ballot in the special election.
After the special election, New York will hold its primary for the 3rd District and other congressional seats in June. The general election on Nov. 5 will determine the winner of the full Third District term, which begins in January 2025.
Until voters elect a new representative in the special election, the House Clerk will manage the 3rd District’s offices, according to the House Administration Committee.
The office can still conduct constituent casework but cannot perform legislative activity.
Santos lost his $174,000 annual salary and federal health insurance when he was expelled. He will not be eligible for a pension because he hasn’t served for five years. But he can return to the House floor as a former member and he can use some House facilities.