The expulsion of scandal-ridden freshman Congressman George Santos has lit the fuse of a mad dash to replace him, with Democrats eager to reclaim the seat the infamous fabulist nabbed in the 2022 midterms.
Mr Santos was ousted on Friday after more than two-thirds of the House voted to remove him from the chamber. He was booted after a litany of scandals and criminal charges, with the unravelling of his political career beginning before he even took office in January of this year.
The last Republican to represent the area was Rep Rick Lazio, who left Congress after losing the New York Senate election in 2000 to then-First Lady and subsequent Secretary of State and Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
What happens now?
By state law, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has to announce a special election within ten days of the seat becoming vacant, with the election then being held within between 70 and 80 days – about two and a half months.
This means that following Mr Santos’s Friday ouster, his replacement will be chosen on or before 29 February 2024.
Who could replace Santos?
In a special election, the party nominees are chosen by local party leaders, not in a primary. Partly because of redistricting, House seats in the Empire State have become a surprising battleground for what usually are blue seats.
For the last two decades, Democrats have held the Long Island and Queens district, and Mr Santos himself believes that the man who preceded him is likely to get the Democratic nomination to return to Congress following his ouster.
Former New York State Senator Anna Kaplan has backed reproductive rights, gun safety measures, as well as economic development. She’s the first political refugee and Iranian-American elected to the New York state senate, Axios notes.
In 2018, she won her state senate seat back from the Republicans.
On Thursday, before Mr Santos was removed from the House, Ms Kaplan wrote on X: “If George Santos is expelled tomorrow, the special election will be right around the corner. I am battle-tested, and I am ready to flip New York’s 3rd Congressional District blue. We’ve already raised over $1 million. We’re just getting started.”
Mr Santos responded, writing: “Too bad that the Democratic Party in NY doesn’t believe in giving you a chance. You will be passed up for Suozzi, keep in mind that your party leadership is sexist and the little boys club will pass you up for one of them! Party of progress and inclusion, yeah right!”
Rep Thomas Souzzi represented the third congressional district in the state between 2017 and 2023. He didn’t run for re-election in 2022 to instead run against Ms Hochul for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, a race he lost. Mr Santos triumphed over the Democratic nominee Robert Zimmerman by 54 to 46 per cent in 2022.
Mr Souzzi beat Mr Santos when the 35-year-old made his first run for Congress in 2020 by 55.9 per cent to 43.4 per cent.
Mr Souzzi announced in October that he would run to take back his old seat.
The US Army veteran and lawyer states on his campaign site that he’s pushing for healthcare reform.
“Like so many of my friends and neighbors, I’ve had enough of the polarization, political noise, and the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ fighting of today’s politicians. It’s time our district had a leader committed to civility, collaboration, and people-first solutions, so I’m stepping up to be part of the solution and continue serving the country and community that has given so much to me,” he writes on the site.
A small business owner and lawyer, Mr Behar was previously the counsel to the New York State Senate and New York City Council, his site states.
“Steve spent six years as Counsel to New York City Council Member Barry Grodenchik. Steve worked in both the District Office and the City Hall Office of the Council Member. In his role as Counsel, Steve was responsible for the Council Member’s policy, legislation, and land-use decisions. Steve prepped Council Member Grodenchik for all hearings and meetings of the Council at City Hall,” the page says.
While Mr Zimmerman, who Mr Santos bested in 2022, hasn’t announced his candidacy, he may be tapped by local party leaders for another run, Axios notes.
Mr Martins, a recently elected state senator, is under consideration as a possible option for Republicans in the upcoming special election, according to Newsweek. He has called Mr Santos a “fraud”, and he has said that he should resign, adding that he wouldn’t work with him.
“These aren’t embellishments, these are lies, and George Santos is a fraud,” he said in January, according to National Journal.
Mazi Melesa Pilip
The Nassau County legislator was born in Ethiopia before she was airlifted to Israel, where she then served in the Israel Defence Forces. She’s seen as a possible GOP option, according to Semafor.
An alumn of the US Air Force Academy, he served in Afghanistan, and his campaign site also states that he was a VP and JP Morgan.
On 19 November, after Mr Santos said he wasn’t running for re-election, Mr Curry told The Independent: “George Santos is finally taking a step in the right direction, but our country is at a crossroads.”
“Today marks the beginning of a renewed focus on the issues that matter, instead of the distraction of the last 11 months,” he added.
The president and CEO of the Security Traders Association, which is active in the financial services industry, calls himself a “political outsider with hands-on experience dealing with our federal government on national issues”.
The retired NYPD detective also describes himself as a “community volunteer, small business founder, and nationally-recognized security expert,” on his campaign site.
A political novice, Mr Hach joined the Air Force and was stationed in Greece, his site states. He became a lawyer and later co-founded a law firm “months after the terrorist attacks on America and New York on September 11, 2001.”
How did the District vote in 2020 and what does it mean for the special election?
In the district, Mr Souzzi actually outperformed President Joe Biden, who beat then-President Donald Trump by 54.7 per cent to 44.3 per cent, while Mr Souzzi garnered the support of another 1.2 per cent of voters.
With the staggering amount of negative attention Mr Santos has received, it’s possible that those choosing to turn out in the special election will want to punish the Republican Party and return a Democrat to Congress.
The 2022 midterms were the first national elections following the inauguration of Mr Biden. The party holding the White House usually tend to lose seats in Congress in the midterms after winning the presidency. While the seat has been blue for decades, Republicans were expected to win the House as a whole and managed to do so, albeit with a much smaller margin than expected.