Off to the races
Moments after George Santos was expelled from Congress, the phones of Democrats across Nassau County buzzed.
“BREAKING: George Santos was JUST ousted from the House,” the text message read. “Rush in $25 to win NY-03 & restore sanity in Washington.”
The message was signed: Tom Suozzi.
Meanwhile, former State Sen. Anna Kaplan was sending out her own statement on social media.
“If chosen as our party’s nominee, I will flip this seat blue,” she wrote.
The choice of candidate in the special election for Santos’ seat, expected to occur in February, lies with the party leadership, and the Democratic Party is wasting no time in determining its nominee. Democratic leaders from Nassau and Queens are holding a screening Friday afternoon for potential candidates that both Kaplan and Suozzi are expected to attend, Nassau County Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs confirmed in an interview with The Point. Jacobs said he’s working closely with Queens party chair Greg Meeks, adding that other candidates in addition to Kaplan and Suozzi could be screening as well.
“We have reached out to all serious candidates,” Jacobs said. “I’m not looking to nominate George Santos’ brother.”
Sources close to Robert Zimmerman, who ran against and lost to Santos last year and had left the door open to running again, told The Point that Zimmerman is not planning to screen.
Jacobs said he and Meeks will be consulting with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and with Gov. Kathy Hochul. Jacobs expects the members of the party’s executive committee who represent portions of CD3 will take an “advisory vote” Tuesday night, although the ultimate decision is up to Jacobs and Meeks.
Jacobs predicted each party could spend between $8 million and $10 million on the race, adding that he doesn’t expect it to have the low turnout common with most special elections.
“There will not be anybody alive in the district — and maybe some that are dead — that don’t know there’s an election going on,” Jacobs told The Point. “Congress is so closely divided that every seat is critical, and that means this is going to have national money and national attention. Then you add to it the dynamic that it’s the former seat of George Santos and that’s going to add to the excitement of it and interest in it.”
While most local political observers expect Suozzi, who already has lined up considerable support from organized labor, to be the party’s choice, Kaplan told The Point she’s going to make her case by emphasizing that as a woman and as a Jewish political refugee, her background and skill set would motivate and enthuse voters.
“I am making sure the people who are important people who are going to make the decisions know who I am, what I am about, what I’ve done and what I intend to do going forward. I’m fully on board in making sure that I’m the nominee in the special,” Kaplan said.
Meanwhile, Nassau Republican Committee chair Joseph Cairo said in a statement Friday that the party expects to announce its choice “in the very near future.”
Yet for some candidates, the process itself is a problem. Greg Hach, a Republican running a dark horse candidacy for the Santos seat, was quoted by NBC as saying of the Nassau nominating process: "Now is not the time to restrict voters' options and allow a smoke-filled room to hand pick the next GOP nominee. If last cycle tells us anything, this is how you end up with deadbeats like Santos."
But Kellen Curry, a business executive and U.S. Air Force veteran who declared his candidacy nine months ago, told The Point he is screening with the Republican Party on Monday and hopes to make the case that a “proven and experienced outsider” is what the party needs. Retired NYPD Det. Mike Sapraicone, meanwhile, posted on X after the Santos vote that his campaign could "restore an honest, hardworking Republican voice for my neighbors."
Observers have said Nassau Legis. Mazi Melesa Pilip is very interested in the Republican nod. And then there's the wild card: State Sen. Jack Martins, whose name has come up but who hasn't confirmed his interest. Martins did not return calls for comment.
One Nassau Republican official told The Point the party is screening about 20 candidates and expects interviews to conclude next Tuesday.
When asked what the party was looking for, the Republican official paused.
“Clearly being somebody who’s trustworthy, credible and has a solid background as opposed to George Santos is important,” the official said.
— Randi F. Marshall email@example.com
Santos has left the House
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'Hope' for women in politics, on LI and beyond
A half-century ago, Judith Hope became the first woman to be elected as a town supervisor in Long Island history. She won a surprise 1973 victory in East Hampton, despite a lack of political donations and the chronic doubts of men. Hope later went on to become state Democratic Party chair — the first woman to head a major party in New York State — and an influential voice in national politics.
“I was an item of some curiosity,” recalled Hope, now 84, to The Point this week about that 1973 race. “It was difficult because no one would give me money because they thought a woman couldn’t get elected.”
Fifty years later, Hope said, there are certainly more women running for all sorts of elective offices locally; in November, a record number of four were elected supervisors of Long Island towns. Republican incumbents Jennifer DeSena in North Hempstead and Angie Carpenter in Islip were returned to office and two Democratic challengers, Maria Moore in Southampton and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez in East Hampton, who both had female opponents for the open seats, were winners.
“We’re still a long way from equality,” said Hope, who was a big booster of Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee. She also noted the rise of GOP female candidates, and particularly praised Nikki Haley, the current GOP presidential candidate facing former President Donald Trump and other male Republican candidates, for adroitly avoiding some sexist pitfalls.
Hope’s upset victory in 1973 reflected the national mood of voters angry with President Nixon’s Watergate scandal and willing to take it out on local GOP candidates. In East Hampton, Republicans were then led by Assembly Speaker Perry Duryea and outnumbered Democrats by a 4-1 margin. She said there hadn’t been a Democrat elected supervisor since the late 1930s. The Republicans were reportedly so upset by Hope’s victory that they stripped the supervisor’s office of its files.
Hope served one term in East Hampton in the 1970s and then returned for two additional two-year terms in the 1980s. She also worked for Gov. Hugh Carey and later led the state Democratic Party during the late 1990s. Hope remains on the board of Eleanor’s Legacy, the statewide organization that she founded in 2001. It is named for former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, an influential figure in New York politics. The group promotes pro-choice Democratic women candidates, including those seeking local offices. In recent years, the red wave of Republican wins on Long Island has been tough for Democratic female candidates, she said, notably the 2021 loss of incumbent Nassau County Executive Laura Curran to GOP challenger Bruce Blakeman. “Women have had a very hard time on Long Island,” she said. “There is a very deep conservative streak in Long Island.”
But Hope takes satisfaction in knowing that the South Fork is represented by two women: Moore and Burke-Gonzalez. She says the East End is no longer the GOP bastion it was when she got elected in 1973. “A lot of retired New Yorkers are here on the East End,” she explained, “and women [candidates] do better.”
— Thomas Maier firstname.lastname@example.org