The lone debate in the congressional race to succeed George Santos unfolded on Thursday, featuring Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Pilip in a vigorous exchange. This clash followed closely on the heels of a Siena College poll indicating a neck-and-neck contest, with Suozzi holding a slight edge at 48% of likely voters compared to Pilip’s 44%.
Suozzi and Pilip pulled no punches in their high-stakes confrontation. From the outset, they launched verbal salvos at each other, each striving fervently to sway voters in their favor for representation in Washington.
Suozzi seized the initiative by speaking first, asserting, “My opponent lacks vetting and readiness. We cannot afford a repeat of past mistakes with George Santos.”
Pilip, in turn, attempted to associate Suozzi, who is nevertheless known as a moderate Democrat, with the far left, stating, “Biden, the Squad, and Tom Suozzi are steering our nation in the wrong direction.”
Throughout the debate, contentious exchanges ensued on topics ranging from abortion to immigration to the issue of deducting state and local taxes. Pilip sought to tether Suozzi to President Biden, while Suozzi aimed to portray Pilip as akin to Santos.
Tensions peaked when integrity was questioned, with Suozzi criticizing Pilip for agreeing to only one debate, questioning her transparency. Suozzi countered, “How can you run for Congress in this post-George Santos world and not be completely transparent?”
Pilip defended her stance, emphasizing her record of action over rhetoric. “The voters know who I am. They know I’m not the politician, I’m not the career politician who talks and doesn’t deliver. I’m a person of action,” she retorted.
The discussion turned particularly acrimonious regarding Suozzi’s advocacy for restoring SALT deductions, with Pilip accusing him of failing on his promises. “He promised us he was going to bring SALT deductions back. He failed,” Pilip asserted.
Suozzi hit back, criticizing Pilip’s stance on abortion. “Are you pro-choice?” Suozzi asked three times, a question that Pilip refused to answer each time, instead repeating, “I’m Mazi Pilip. I am pro-life. This is me.”
As the special election approaches on February 13th, both parties are heavily invested, recognizing the pivotal nature of the race in the context of the slim Republican majority in the House. The North Shore Leader, a local paper known for exposing Santos’ falsehoods, endorsed Pilip.
Early voting is currently underway in New York’s Third Congressional District, setting the stage for a decisive electoral showdown.