Don't call NY-3 a "bellwether"

A uniquely bad GOP candidate in a bizarre district are not a blueprint for the country

It feels fitting to be writing about the NY-3 special election outcome from South Florida where so many of the district’s residents spend part of their year—including my parents, who are here in Miami for a brief winter respite. Unable to sleep, I watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and contemplate the congressional district of my youth: a deeply weird place that has occupied much of my brain space for the past year or so.

Democrat Tom Suozzi beat registered Democrat-turned-Republican candidate Mazi Pilip on Tuesday by nearly eight percentage points, narrowing the House GOP majority to just six seats. He flipped the seat formerly occupied by George Santos. And that’s all despite a Republican Super PAC spending big money on snow plows to clear the snowy roads on Election Day in areas more favorable to their party. Surely, that’s reason enough to celebrate. But even as I sit in this warm climate, the result has left me cold.

“We addressed the issues, and we found a way to bind our divisions,” Suozzi said in his victory speech Tuesday night at Crest Hollow Country Club, which is also where I had my bat mitzvah. “There are divisions in our country where people can't even talk to each other … all they do is yell and scream at each other. The answer is to bring people of good will together to try and find that common ground.” Incredible words from a man who takes cheap shots at progressive members of his party any chance he gets. 

Crest Hollow Country Club, September 2000

I was bullish long before the results came in that this race would not be a bellwether for other special elections, or for Biden and the rest of the Dems in November—and that was always regardless of the winner. There’s this prevailing narrative that if a Republican wins, it’s indicative of promising national trends, but if a Democrat wins, it’s somehow bad news. And as much as we’ve seen that play out with regard to other races, it simply does not ring true here.

As a political chronicler and spectator, I’ve seen others crow about how their region—whether it’s Border Texas, Silicon Valley, the Pacific Northwest—is not understood nationally by those who’ve never lived it. But now that Long Island is in the national spotlight, I feel confident in my assessment of what happened in this special election. And it was anything but normal.

Both candidates ran campaigns promoting right-wing immigration policy; both candidates supported unconditional and indefinite aid to Israel; both candidates really fucking hated AOC. As different as they looked on paper, there wasn’t much daylight between their stances on two of the biggest issues of the day. 

Mazi Pilip, the Ethiopian-born Orthodox Jew who immigrated to Israel as a child, served in the IDF, came to America, got married, had seven children and ran for the Nassau County legislature, was a terrible candidate. She had virtually no experience, no name recognition, and above all, zero political skill. She did hardly any press, and when she did, she just repeated empty platitudes about how migrants are ruining the suburbs and the country. The local GOP party that chose Santos somehow managed to pick someone who was, in some ways, worse, as far as ability to campaign.

The only word that keeps coming to mind to describe Pilip’s selection is cynical. Her candidacy was announced 2.5 months into the war in Israel and Gaza, and the calculus appeared to be that her resume was intriguing enough to sprint through an eight-week special election campaign with little scrutiny. They were sure the district with a large Jewish population would hear “Israeli former soldier” and stop listening after that. Nevermind that she was (and still is!) a registered Democrat; nevermind that she couldn’t present a single coherent policy plan; nevermind that she was physically unable to articulate her position on abortion.

Nassau GOP Chair Joe Cairo really thought, after foisting a liar and a fraud upon local voters, that somehow he’d sneak this one past them. NY-3 may be getting more conservative, but at the very least, voters there seem to believe in the “fool me once” doctrine.

Pilip also wouldn’t permanently hitch her wagon to Trump, given the extremely moderate politics of the area. But it’s interesting to wonder how things might’ve been different for her if she had. 

“Nobody is above the law,” Pilip said in a late January candidate forum with local news channel PIX11 when asked if she’d support Trump in 2024. “If he [is] convicted of a crime, he cannot represent us. Unless we see that, right now, if he is the candidate, I will support him. He was a great candidate, a great president. He did great things for America.”

Trump returned the favor by posting on Truth social after her loss:

My two predictions for the campaigns leading up to the NY-3 June primaries and November general election are this: More xenophobia from Democrats and more Trump from Republicans. 

For a New York Times piece titled “Leaning Into Migrant Woes, Suozzi Paves Election-Year Path for Democrats,” former Long Island Democratic Congressman Steve Israel said, “It’s a very interesting lesson to Democrats that you can escape your opponent’s attacks on immigration by not only leaning into the issue, but doubling down on it.” 

By doubling down he means, of course, being more xenophobic, more racist, and generally more hateful towards migrants who are coming to this country seeking safety and prosperity. And perhaps that’s the only way a Democrat could win in a district where the tough-on-crime Republican gubernatorial candidate won two years ago. But it’s not a lesson that should be extrapolated outside the New York Post’s sphere of influence.

And as for upping the Trumpiness, Republicans are realizing they’re inextricably linked to the convicted rapist after years of singing his praises. Now it’s much too late to try and be a light among the facism: As we saw in 2022, almost all of then Congressional Republicans who voted to impeach Trump were run out of town. They made their MAGA beds and now they must lie in them.

Quick note: I’ll be off the next few days enjoying some time with family. Look out for a new post early next week. And remember: If you like what I do, please become a paid subscriber. Thanks!

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