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Meet the Man New York Democrats Want to Replace George Santos

Tom Suozzi
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

Democrats are hoping to put a former congressman in the seat left vacant following George Santos's expulsion.

By Gloria Pazmino, Ethan Cohen and Jack Forrest, CNN

(CNN) — New York Democrats have nominated former Rep. Tom Suozzi for the special election to succeed expelled Republican Rep. George Santos.

Suozzi represented a previous version of New York 3rd Congressional District, on the north shore of Long Island, for three terms before vacating the seat to launch an ultimately unsuccessful primary challenge to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul last year.

“Tom Suozzi has a proven record of fighting for his constituents, fighting to safeguard our suburban way of life here on Long Island and Queens and always advocating for sensible solutions to the real challenges affecting every day average Americans,” Jay Jacobs and Rep. Gregory Meeks, the chairs of the Democratic Party in Nassau and Queens counties, said in a joint statement.

Under New York’s special election rules, nominees are selected by the county party leaders in the district.

Hochul has scheduled the special election to fill the seat for February 13.

The race to succeed Santos will take on added significance next year, given Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the House – which will only get thinner, at least temporarily, with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy leaving the chamber at the end of this year. Already, the race is being discussed as a key bellwether ahead of the November 2024 general election.

Last week, Santos became only the sixth lawmaker to be expelled from Congress after an Ethics Committee report concluded he had “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.” Santos has also pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports.

Suozzi is expected to officially announce his campaign on Saturday.

“I delivered for this district before, and I will do it again by putting you ahead of partisanship. Let’s reject the nonsense and get back to work,” the former congressman said in a statement Thursday.

Republican leaders in Queens and Nassau counties have yet to announce their nominee. A request for comment was not immediately returned.

Suozzi entered the race to challenge Santos in October prior to the congressman’s expulsion. Support of the county organizations will be crucial in helping to marshal resources and kickstarting fundraising in what is expected to be a short and potentially low-turnout election.

Covering parts of Queens and Nassau counties, the district and its earlier versions had long been represented by Democrats until Santos’ surprising victory in an open-seat race in 2022. Two years earlier, Santos had lost to Suozzi by double digits.

Prior to his three terms in Congress, Suozzi spent eight years leading Nassau County as county executive and also served as the mayor of Glen Cove. Considered a moderate Democrat, Suozzi also lost two bids for his party’s nomination for governor – he finished third in the primary against Hochul last year and lost a 2006 bid to Eliot Spitzer. His primary challenge against Hochul was bitter, and the governor had considered blocking his bid to be the 3rd District nominee, before clearing the way for him in return for certain concessions.

Suozzi will be hoping that the backlash to Santos’ many scandals will endanger Republican momentum in the district. But his mission to reclaim the seat may be harder than national observers expect, local Democrats told CNN’s Ronald Brownstein recently. While President Joe Biden would have carried the district under its current lines by 8 points in 2020, the GOP has made gains in elections on Long Island since then, largely around concerns about crime, immigration and inflation, including the high cost of housing.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Gregory Krieg and Renée Rigdon contributed to this report.

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