ALBANY — Rep. Tom Suozzi’s decision to run for governor has set off a scramble for a successor and gives Republicans a chance to take a swing seat they’ve long coveted.
"Any time you take out an incumbent, it increases attention on a seat," said Lee Miringoff, Marist College pollster, on Tuesday. "I don’t think it’s one of the most contested seats in the nation, but open seats always attract attention from Washington and attract money."
Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) announced Monday he will run for governor rather than for a fourth term in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens counties.
Suozzi will try to chart a centrist course in a crowded gubernatorial field that already includes Gov. Kathy Hochul of Buffalo, Attorney General Letitia James of Brooklyn and New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also is weighing a run.
Suozzi’s decision — which some Democrats hope he’ll reconsider — creates a wide-open field for a successor in Congress.
The district has been solidly Democratic — Suozzi defeated Republican George Santos, 56% to 43%, in 2020. Cook Political Report had listed it as "no or minimal risk" of party turnover in 2022, though that was prior to Suozzi’s announcement.
Also, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 58,000 in active voters in the district.
Plus, New York as a whole remains a very "blue" state, Miringoff noted.
But Republicans’ wins on Long Island last month in local elections has the GOP feeling good about its chances to take the seat.
"In 2020, that was a seat that was very much in play," said Jesse Garcia, Suffolk Republican chairman. "We only see it getting better for us going forward. Especially with the current atmosphere going into midterm" elections nationally.
"We feel a bit more confident now after our successes this year," said Joe Cairo, Nassau GOP chairman.
Democrats are worried.
"It probably moves (the seat) to one of the top categories for competitiveness" in the nation, said Richard Schaffer, Suffolk County Democratic Chairman, on Tuesday. "It’s going to cause problems."
"I’m still hopeful that, at the end of the day, I and others can convince Tom it’s better stay in the congressional office," said Jay Jacobs, chairman of both the state Democratic and Nassau Democratic committees.
One thing both sides agree on: It will be hard to suss out candidates until the state approves new congressional lines in the redistricting process, which is expected to be completed early next year.
Some of the early names mentioned on the Democratic side as possibly interested include Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport), Assemb. Edward Braunstein (D-Queens) and Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan, a Woodbury independent who caucuses with Democrats. Melanie D’Arrigo, who lost a Democratic primary to Suozzi in 2020, already has said she’s running.
On the opposing side, Santos has expressed interest in running again, Republicans said. Vincent DeMarco, a former Suffolk County sheriff, also has been mentioned.
"We don’t know what the (district) lines are going to be, but I think several names are going to come forward," Cairo said.