Coming down to the wire
Democrats and Republicans head into the final weekend of early voting with optimism — tempered by the recognition that the Third Congressional District race between Tom Suozzi and Mazi Melesa Pilip is likely going to be very close.
Friday, the talk was about Thursday night debate and who might have gotten a bounce.
“She stood toe to toe with him,” said Pilip campaign spokesman Brian Devine. “He is a far more seasoned debater but she didn’t back down and she didn’t give an inch.”
Nassau County Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs, however, compared Pilip’s performance with the late James Stockdale, who was Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992. His “Who am I? Why am I here?” line is considered the gold standard for worst debate performances.
Said Suozzi campaign senior adviser Kim Devlin: “Tom showed the voters who he is and what he’s about, while Mazi Pilip for the first time in this campaign was exposed as a candidate who doesn’t really understand the issues, has absolutely no solutions and does nothing more than repeat the Republican talking points.”
Devlin said she saw the debate as a “great launching pad” for the last five days of the Suozzi campaign, which, she promised, would feature “the most incredible ground game I’ve ever seen.”
On Friday, Pilip held a news conference with the law enforcement unions that endorsed her. That support became fodder in Thursday’s debate, when Pilip criticized Suozzi’s effort to kick ICE out of Nassau County and Suozzi noted that his police commissioner asked him to do it.
“As a county executive, you are in charge of this county. It doesn’t matter what the commissioner will tell you,” Pilip said during the debate. “In the end you make that decision.”
Suozzi shot back, questioning whether Pilip was suggesting he should have gone against his police commissioner’s advice that ICE was jeopardizing the lives of Nassau cops.
But Devine told The Point that’s not what Pilip meant.
“She certainly has the utmost respect for law enforcement and their opinions,” Devine said Friday. “She wasn’t advocating to go against the police commissioner.”
And during Friday’s news conference, Pilip tried to clean up her stance.
“You are the true heroes,” Pilip said to a group of law enforcement representatives surrounding her. “I salute you. I respect you. And I will continue to support you.”
At that news conference, reporters asked Pilip about some of the other issues she skirted around during the debate, including whether she supported enshrining abortion rights into law or a ban on semiautomatic rifles. She refused to answer either, saying she’d speak only about law enforcement.
Devine said Pilip, who observes Shabbat, would be “off the grid” for Friday night and Saturday, but planned to walk to different synagogues to connect with voters on Saturday, as she’s been doing throughout the campaign. Meanwhile, campaign representatives will be spread throughout the district, while New York City Councilwoman Vickie Paladino, a rare Republican in that chamber, will be going door to door in Whitestone on Saturday as voters in Queens make up about 25% of the vote.
Suozzi, too, is heading for Queens on Saturday, with a meet-and-greet at a Whitestone deli and the launch of a Queens canvassing effort at his Queens campaign headquarters in Bayside.
By the end of early voting Thursday, 5,536 people had cast ballots in the borough, including 3,293 Democrats, 1,296 Republicans and 745 blanks. Another 2,032 voters had turned in absentee ballots, 1,497 of whom were Democrats.
In Nassau, by early Friday afternoon, 36,481 votes were cast, including by registration 15,403 Democrats, 12,763 Republicans and 6,984 blanks. Blanks — those not registered with a party — remained at 19% of the vote, though in Great Neck, Pilip’s base, that percentage rose to as high as 27% and in Roslyn Heights, it stood at 22%.
Those numbers are relatively close to where things stood in Nassau’s part of CD3 in 2022, though Democrats have a slightly larger edge this time around in early voting. That year, at the end of six days of early voting, 32,570 Nassau residents had voted in the race between George Santos and Robert Zimmerman, including 13,426 Democrats, 12,319 Republicans and 5,633 blanks.
Jacobs predicted this year’s race to be “a tight one,” mostly, he said, because of the two issues that have dominated throughout: the migrant crisis and Israel.
“Without those two things, it would be a cakewalk, but with those two things it’s going to be … close … all the way to the end,” Jacobs said. “But no one at the end of the day is going to say the Nassau County [Democratic] organization didn’t bring out the Democrats. They’re coming out.”
But those two big issues — along with the looming presence of ex-Rep. Santos — also continue to give the race a national and international spotlight.
“It’s the biggest show in town,” said Devine.
— Randi F. Marshall email@example.com
For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons
Forecast: A tight race with a chance of snow
One thing neither Nassau County Republican Party leader Joe Cairo nor Democratic leader Jay Jacobs can control: the weather.
So far, weather predictions for Tuesday don’t look good, with a mix of snow and rain and colder temperatures expected.
That’s not changing either party’s strategy in the CD3 special election, top Democrats and Republicans told The Point. Both parties are ramping up significant get-out-the-vote efforts for the last weekend of early voting — and for Tuesday itself.
“We’ll still get our people out,” said Brian Devine, a spokesman for Republican candidate Mazi Melesa Pilip.
“I’ll be out in rain or snow,” Jacobs said. “We’re knocking our brains out to get every vote out. I don’t care if it’s sunny and 80 on Tuesday. That doesn’t change.”
But Jacobs did note that as of his latest checks of the weather reports, the snow and rain is expected to dissipate by lunch time. Typically, he said, Republicans vote earlier in the day, and Democratic turnout ramps up later — so if that holds true, the weather could favor Tom Suozzi.
Jacobs recalled another unusual election when weather impacted turnout — and the ultimate result. In 2011, then-Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano sought to build a new Nassau Coliseum with taxpayer dollars and put the issue up for a referendum on a Monday in August. Jacobs opposed the referendum and orchestrated an enormous effort the weekend beforehand to encourage the “No” vote to turn out, particularly among older — often Republican — voters.
Those Republican and older voters showed up to the polls early in the day — when the weather was still decent.
Then the skies opened and began to rain and hail. That helped to limit turnout among the younger and Democratic voters who would have supported the referendum.
This time around, Jacobs is hoping the bad weather ends early.
For fans of “The West Wing,” perhaps the question is whether any of the campaign leaders will pull a Will Bailey, by throwing their arms up to the sky — and making it rain.
— Randi F. Marshall firstname.lastname@example.org