New York 3 Special: Democrats Strike Back

by Jacob Rubashkin February 14, 2024 · 2:53 PM EST

Democrat Tom Suozzi scored a decisive victory Tuesday night in the special election to replace former GOP Rep. George Santos. Suozzi, a former congressman, led Republican county legislator Mazi Pilip by 7.8 points in New York’s 3rd District with 93 percent of the vote counted, according to the Associated Press.

Suozzi’s win in the hard-fought race has immediate repercussions on Capitol Hill, where it will weaken an already teetering GOP majority, and also consequences for this fall’s general election.

Once Suozzi is sworn in — likely in a week or so — Republicans will have a 219-213 majority, with two vacancies (Ohio’s 6th District and California’s 20th District). That means House Speaker Mike Johnson will only be able to afford two defections from his conference on any party-line vote. That includes looming votes on foreign aid and government funding. And a narrower majority also leaves Johnson that much more vulnerable to a potential motion to vacate.

Looking ahead to the fall, the results in New York’s 3rd mean that Democrats now need a net gain of just 4 seats to recapture the House majority. Several of those gains could come in New York alone, where the party is targeting an additional five districts, all of which, like the 3rd, voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

Suozzi’s tack toward the center on immigration could provide a blueprint for Democratic nominees elsewhere on Long Island, in the 1st and 4th districts, to defuse GOP attacks on the issue.

And his win could have more immediate impact too, with a court-ordered redistricting process set to kick off in just a few weeks. Had Pilip won the special election, Democrats in the state legislature might have felt obligated to redraw the 3rd District to be even more Democratic in an effort to dislodge her in the fall, and that would mean sacrificing opportunities elsewhere on Long Island. But with Suozzi back in office, state lawmakers can feel more comfortable about leaving the 3rd District as is and instead focusing their efforts on 1st District Rep. Nick LaLota and 4th District Rep. Anthony D’Esposito.

Though the results are good for Democrats, they also shouldn’t be overstated. The unique circumstances surrounding the special election — the scandal that precipitated it, the drastic difference in candidate biographies, the hyper-local politics of Long Island, and even the snowstorm that hit the district on Election Day — make it difficult to extrapolate too many national lessons from the results. There’s still a long way to go before November, and big special election wins for New York Democrats in the run-up to the 2022 midterms ultimately didn’t predict how poorly the state would go for the party that fall.

For now, Democrats can celebrate, and Republicans ask themselves what went wrong. But the House majority was in play before New York 3, and the House majority is still in play now.