Special election to be held after Rep. George Santos expelled from Congress

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Friday, December 1, 2023
Special election to decide who will replace George Santos
Sonia Rincon has more on what's next after the House expelled George Santos in a historic, bipartisan vote Friday.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The House has expelled George Santos in a historic vote and now many are left wondering what happens next.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has 10 days to schedule a special election, which must then be held 70 to 80 days after her announcement. Both parties expect a mid to late February vote.

Shortly after Friday's vote, Hochul posted on social media that she is "prepared to undertake the solemn responsibility of filling the vacancy in New York's 3rd district."

She went on to say that the people of Long Island deserve nothing less.

Unlike normal races, there is no primary. Instead, Democratic and Republican party leaders choose their candidates and run them.

"The election will clearly be not only literally the first general election of 2024, but figuratively this will be the source of national attention," said Hofstra law professor James Sample.

There are several Democrats who are likely to run, including former Rep Tom Suozzi, who held the seat for six years before taking Hochul on in last year's gubernatorial primary.

The nominee against Santos last year, Robert Zimmerman, is also a possibility as well as New York State Sen. Anna Kaplan.

Nassau and state party chair Jay Jacobs said he hopes they'll have an announcement by Tuesday.

Republicans have been talking to 12 to 15 candidates, with some reports putting it closer to 20.

Retired NYPD Det. Mike Sapraicone and former Israel Defense Forces solider Mazi Pilip appear to be two of the frontrunners. State Sen. Jack Martins, who ran for Congress in 2016 and 2018, would be familiar candidate for Nassau County voters, after choosing a relative newcomer in Santos. Martins seems hesitant to run, but may be pulled into a special election to hold the seat.

While the decisions will be made by party leaders in both New York and Washington, the Nassau GOP is expected to have an outsized role in choosing Santos' successor.

"I am prepared to undertake the solemn responsibility of filling the vacancy in New York's 3rd District by scheduling a special election. The people of Long Island and Queens deserve nothing less."
Gov. Kathy Hochul

Democrats believe they can retake the seat in the wake of the Santos circus, while Republicans -- who quickly distanced themselves from Santos earlier this year -- will be looking to hold onto a district that has shifted to the right since President Joe Biden won it by eight points in 2020, as part of a larger Republification of Long Island.

"A 435-member body as a result of gerrymandering and redistricting, really only has about 80 competitive races, Long Island is one of those places in America that is truly purple and truly competitive," Sample said.

Santos, who could theoretically run for the seat as an independent in the next general election in November, has a more pressing concern - his federal trial starts Sept. 9, 2024 in Central Islip.

In the meantime, Santos' district director, who now will answer directly to the House clerk, says the district offices doors are still open and services continue.

"We have a full staff who handles numerous issues -- federal, state county, village, city, and I'm proud to say we are going to continue to do this, do this work for the constituents of New York 3," said district director Mark Woolley.

RELATED | George Santos: The Man, the Myths, the Lessons | Full Special

"George Santos: The Man, The Myths, The Lessons," an ABC7 New York Eyewitness News investigation, explores the rise of the politician whose path to Congress was paved with lies.


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