DemocratTom Suozzi faces Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip in the Feb. 13...

DemocratTom Suozzi faces Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip in the Feb. 13 special election for New York's 3rd Congressional District. Credit: Craig Ruttle/Howard Schnapp

WASHINGTON — The special election for New York’s 3rd Congressional District between Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip is spurring millions of dollars from outside political groups looking to boost their candidates in the widely watched race.

Democratic groups have vastly outspent Republican-aligned groups, spending seven times as much, according to a Newsday analysis of expense reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. But campaign finance experts and strategists say Republicans could be gearing up to unleash more spending in the final leg of the race, particularly on get-out-the-vote efforts leading up to the Feb. 13 election.

The race to fill the seat left open by expelled Republican Rep. George Santos has generated national interest as Republicans fight to preserve their razor-thin majority in the U.S. House and Democrats look to reverse some of their losses in federal and local races on Long Island over the past three years. The winner will serve out the remainder of Santos’ two-year term and would need to run again in November for a full term.

“To put it simply, February is about November and the suburbs,” said Larry Levy, executive dean at Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. “Who wins the 3rd District goes beyond which party gets one more, or less, seat. It’s about seeing what tactics and strategies — particularly messaging — work or don’t work with the moderate swing voters who will determine which party controls the gavels of Congress, as well as the keys to the White House.”

More than $9 million in broadcast ad spending had been reserved as of Friday by the candidates and political action committees, according to AdImpact, a software company that tracks political ad spending.

The bulk of that has been spent by Democrats, according to an analysis by AdImpact. House Majority PAC, a group focused on electing more House Democrats, has spent $3.8 million; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm for House Democrats, has so far spent $3.7 million; and Suozzi's campaign has spent about $723,000, all as of Thursday, according to the ad tracking service.

The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC), the campaign arm for House Republicans, has so far spent $847,000 in ad-buys and an additional $289,000 in a joint ad-buy with the Pilip campaign. The Pilip campaign has spent $230,000, according to AdImpact.

“Ad spending generally increases in the home stretch of any competitive race, so expect those independent expenditure figures to continue to rise,” said Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One, a nonprofit group focused on reducing the influence of money in politics.

Political action committees supporting Suozzi’s bid to return to the seat he held from 2017 to 2022 are far outspending those supporting Pilip, according to reports that must be filed within 24 or 48 hours of expenditures to support or oppose a candidate.

As of Monday, the most recent filings with the FEC show $6.3 million in independent expenditures have been filed between Dec. 20 and Jan. 19. The majority — $5.5 million— stems from groups supporting Suozzi, compared with $735,400 by pro-Pilip groups.

The biggest spenders in the race include the DCCC, House Majority PAC and Battleground New York, a PAC formed to flip House seats won by Republicans in 2022 that are in districts won by President Joe Biden in 2020.

“Democrats are committed to doing everything possible to get the word out about Tom Suozzi’s long record of working with anyone to deliver for Nassau and Queens,” DCCC spokesperson Ellie Dougherty said in a statement.

House Majority PAC announced last month it planned to spend $5.2 million for TV and digital ad reservations, in addition to $700,000 for mailers. As of Jan. 13, the group has reported spending $487,000, but that does not include the money spent on reserving time for TV ads.

“With these initial television and digital reservations and mail program, House Majority PAC is making it clear that we will do whatever it takes to take back the House in 2024 — and NY-03 represents the opportunity to make that happen,” House Majority PAC president Mike Smith said in a statement.

Across the aisle, the NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC focused on electing more House Republicans, have been working to boost Pilip.

"The NRCC is honored to work hand-in-glove with Mazi Pilip, the local County Parties, and the NYGOP to ensure we stop Joe Biden and Tom Suozzi’s agenda,” said NRCC spokeswoman Savannah Viar said in a statement.

On Friday, the Congressional Leadership Fund said it plans to spend $2.3 million over the next two weeks on TV, digital and mail ads taking aim at Suozzi's record.

Winning for Women, a PAC focused on electing conservative women to Congress, announced last week it “will make a six-figure investment in digital ads, texting and direct mail urging voters to support Pilip.”

"With Democrats already spending heavily … we are stepping up to help set the record straight and send an accomplished leader to Washington to represent this battleground district,” the group said in a statement.

Federal election law bars PACs from coordinating directly with candidates and their campaigns, “but there are tools to ensure that the outside group isn’t conflicting with the candidate’s message,” said former Rep. Steve Israel, a Huntington Democrat who spent 16 years in Congress, including four as the head of the DCCC.

“Outside groups do their own polling, which reveals effective and ineffective messaging,” Israel told Newsday. “They can also follow the public messaging of the candidate's campaign, to ensure alignment. And candidate campaigns can post, for public consumption, information about their opponents which can be utilized freely by the outside groups. The firewalls are thick and sturdy when it comes to coordinating on private activities and information, but anything public is fair game.”

Republican campaign strategist Michael Dawidziak, of Bohemia, said sometimes PACs can undermine a candidate’s messaging if they’re not familiar with the political dynamics of Long Island.

“They don't understand that Long Island has a very unique set of issues that defy being classified as blue or red issues,” said Dawidziak. “Oftentimes these people from Washington, they put ads on that they think are helping and they don't necessarily help.”

Dawidziak cited as an example Democratic PAC-funded ads that focused on the issue of abortion during the 2022 midterm election. While the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning federal abortion protections has largely helped Democratic candidates across the country, the issue did little to move the needle on Long Island that year. Republicans picked up two seats as Santos defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman and Anthony D’Esposito beat Democrat Laura Gillen in the 4th Congressional District.

Dawidziak said while Republican spending may look like it’s lagging, GOP groups might be waiting to spend more in the final weeks before the election. PACs can line up vendors for mailers, TV ads and canvassing efforts and pay them after elections, allowing them to skip FEC requirements to report payments in a 48-hour time frame.

“It might be one of these things where they delay the billing for a cycle, for two weeks, so they make the next filing,” Dawidziak said. “You don't want to give the other side the playbook. You don't want to tell them where you're spending the money.”

With Paul LaRocco

WASHINGTON — The special election for New York’s 3rd Congressional District between Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip is spurring millions of dollars from outside political groups looking to boost their candidates in the widely watched race.

Democratic groups have vastly outspent Republican-aligned groups, spending seven times as much, according to a Newsday analysis of expense reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. But campaign finance experts and strategists say Republicans could be gearing up to unleash more spending in the final leg of the race, particularly on get-out-the-vote efforts leading up to the Feb. 13 election.

The race to fill the seat left open by expelled Republican Rep. George Santos has generated national interest as Republicans fight to preserve their razor-thin majority in the U.S. House and Democrats look to reverse some of their losses in federal and local races on Long Island over the past three years. The winner will serve out the remainder of Santos’ two-year term and would need to run again in November for a full term.

“To put it simply, February is about November and the suburbs,” said Larry Levy, executive dean at Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. “Who wins the 3rd District goes beyond which party gets one more, or less, seat. It’s about seeing what tactics and strategies — particularly messaging — work or don’t work with the moderate swing voters who will determine which party controls the gavels of Congress, as well as the keys to the White House.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The special election for New York’s 3rd Congressional District between Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip has resulted in millions of dollars from outside political groups looking to boost their candidates.
  • Democratic groups have spent seven times as much as Republican-aligned groups, according to a Newsday analysis of expense reports filed with the FEC.
  • Campaign finance experts and strategists say Republicans could be gearing up to unleash more spending in the final weeks before the Feb. 13 election.

Ad spending

More than $9 million in broadcast ad spending had been reserved as of Friday by the candidates and political action committees, according to AdImpact, a software company that tracks political ad spending.

The bulk of that has been spent by Democrats, according to an analysis by AdImpact. House Majority PAC, a group focused on electing more House Democrats, has spent $3.8 million; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm for House Democrats, has so far spent $3.7 million; and Suozzi's campaign has spent about $723,000, all as of Thursday, according to the ad tracking service.

The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC), the campaign arm for House Republicans, has so far spent $847,000 in ad-buys and an additional $289,000 in a joint ad-buy with the Pilip campaign. The Pilip campaign has spent $230,000, according to AdImpact.

“Ad spending generally increases in the home stretch of any competitive race, so expect those independent expenditure figures to continue to rise,” said Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One, a nonprofit group focused on reducing the influence of money in politics.

PAC spending

Political action committees supporting Suozzi’s bid to return to the seat he held from 2017 to 2022 are far outspending those supporting Pilip, according to reports that must be filed within 24 or 48 hours of expenditures to support or oppose a candidate.

As of Monday, the most recent filings with the FEC show $6.3 million in independent expenditures have been filed between Dec. 20 and Jan. 19. The majority — $5.5 million— stems from groups supporting Suozzi, compared with $735,400 by pro-Pilip groups.

The biggest spenders in the race include the DCCC, House Majority PAC and Battleground New York, a PAC formed to flip House seats won by Republicans in 2022 that are in districts won by President Joe Biden in 2020.

“Democrats are committed to doing everything possible to get the word out about Tom Suozzi’s long record of working with anyone to deliver for Nassau and Queens,” DCCC spokesperson Ellie Dougherty said in a statement.

House Majority PAC announced last month it planned to spend $5.2 million for TV and digital ad reservations, in addition to $700,000 for mailers. As of Jan. 13, the group has reported spending $487,000, but that does not include the money spent on reserving time for TV ads.

“With these initial television and digital reservations and mail program, House Majority PAC is making it clear that we will do whatever it takes to take back the House in 2024 — and NY-03 represents the opportunity to make that happen,” House Majority PAC president Mike Smith said in a statement.

Across the aisle, the NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC focused on electing more House Republicans, have been working to boost Pilip.

"The NRCC is honored to work hand-in-glove with Mazi Pilip, the local County Parties, and the NYGOP to ensure we stop Joe Biden and Tom Suozzi’s agenda,” said NRCC spokeswoman Savannah Viar said in a statement.

On Friday, the Congressional Leadership Fund said it plans to spend $2.3 million over the next two weeks on TV, digital and mail ads taking aim at Suozzi's record.

Winning for Women, a PAC focused on electing conservative women to Congress, announced last week it “will make a six-figure investment in digital ads, texting and direct mail urging voters to support Pilip.”

"With Democrats already spending heavily … we are stepping up to help set the record straight and send an accomplished leader to Washington to represent this battleground district,” the group said in a statement.

PAC messaging

Federal election law bars PACs from coordinating directly with candidates and their campaigns, “but there are tools to ensure that the outside group isn’t conflicting with the candidate’s message,” said former Rep. Steve Israel, a Huntington Democrat who spent 16 years in Congress, including four as the head of the DCCC.

“Outside groups do their own polling, which reveals effective and ineffective messaging,” Israel told Newsday. “They can also follow the public messaging of the candidate's campaign, to ensure alignment. And candidate campaigns can post, for public consumption, information about their opponents which can be utilized freely by the outside groups. The firewalls are thick and sturdy when it comes to coordinating on private activities and information, but anything public is fair game.”

Republican campaign strategist Michael Dawidziak, of Bohemia, said sometimes PACs can undermine a candidate’s messaging if they’re not familiar with the political dynamics of Long Island.

“They don't understand that Long Island has a very unique set of issues that defy being classified as blue or red issues,” said Dawidziak. “Oftentimes these people from Washington, they put ads on that they think are helping and they don't necessarily help.”

Dawidziak cited as an example Democratic PAC-funded ads that focused on the issue of abortion during the 2022 midterm election. While the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning federal abortion protections has largely helped Democratic candidates across the country, the issue did little to move the needle on Long Island that year. Republicans picked up two seats as Santos defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman and Anthony D’Esposito beat Democrat Laura Gillen in the 4th Congressional District.

Dawidziak said while Republican spending may look like it’s lagging, GOP groups might be waiting to spend more in the final weeks before the election. PACs can line up vendors for mailers, TV ads and canvassing efforts and pay them after elections, allowing them to skip FEC requirements to report payments in a 48-hour time frame.

“It might be one of these things where they delay the billing for a cycle, for two weeks, so they make the next filing,” Dawidziak said. “You don't want to give the other side the playbook. You don't want to tell them where you're spending the money.”

With Paul LaRocco

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