What Could Tom Suozzi’s Win in NY-03 Mean for November?

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On Tuesday night, Democratic former congressman Tom Suozzi defeated Republican county legislator Mazi Pilip, winning back the seat he once held and cutting into the GOP’s razor-thin hold on the House of Representatives. The special election to replace the infamous George Santos was seen as a testing ground for the strength of both parties’ messaging ahead of the primaries and November elections. But to others, the factors that make up a special election are too specific to its district to use to predict outcomes for other races in 2024.

As the dust begins to settle, here are some of the possible takeaways for November — if any.

During a short campaign, immigration quickly emerged as the district’s leading issue. Pilip attempted to paint her opponent as weak on border security. In turn, Suozzi ran to the middle, acknowledging that the state was dealing with an influx of migrants from the southern border but pointing to GOP obstructionism as proof that Republicans would prefer to use the issue as a political cudgel than to solve it.

His points were underlined by recent events in Washington, D.C. House Republicans stymied a bipartisan immigration and border Senate package, and House Speaker Mike Johnson led an unsuccessful vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, claiming that he had mishandled the border. Mayorkas was ultimately impeached during a second vote held on Tuesday along party lines.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, noted that Suozzi made immigration a key part of his campaign and went on the offensive when Republicans tried to wield the issue against him.

“Republicans were salivating over President Biden’s horrible approval rating on immigration and the prospect of it being a giant weapon in this and future elections. It was not that kind of weapon in NY-3, and congressional Republicans’ decision to not even attempt to pass a border security package negotiated by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate gives Democrats some ammo on this issue, too,” he wrote.

House Majority PAC, which invested heavily in the race, concluded in a memo that Democrats can use immigration as a winning issue moving forward.

“It is imperative for Democrats to take the fight to Republicans and hammer them on their failure to support the Senate’s bipartisan border security bill. House Republicans bent the knee to Trump on immigration and have made it clear that they care more about MAGA extremism than the American people,” it read.

Tom Bonier, a senior adviser at the Democratic data firm TargetSmart, said Republicans’ defeat of the border bill had an impact on their messaging in New York. “Immigration backfired for the GOP, esp in the context of their legislative failure,” he wrote on X.

Nate Cohn, chief political analyst with the New York Times, suggested that Suozzi’s history in the district as well as the particular dynamics of the race make it difficult to use the election’s results to get a sense of President Biden’s chances in November.

“New York — and Long Island specifically — has been terrific for Republicans in the last few years. This may have been a Biden district, but Mr. Santos won by 10 points in 2022 and the polls continue to show Republicans faring well here heading into 2024,” he wrote.

Suozzi seemed to make a point of distancing himself from the president and did not campaign with Biden at all during the race. On the other side, Pilip at first appeared reluctant to talk about Trump, who also did not make an appearance on the campaign trail. But as the race drew to a close, she embraced the former president more, admitting that she did vote for him in 2020. In return, Trump took to TruthSocial and seemed to blame Pilip’s loss on her reluctance to embrace him, calling her a “very foolish woman.”

Jacob Rubashkin, the deputy editor of Inside Elections, said ahead of Election Day that the special election is too much of an outlier to glean information from for big-picture predictions about the cycle. “NY-3 is like the worst special election for national takes because it’s so out of the norm. It’s the most expensive media market. Long Island is the place that zags when the rest of the state and country zigs. The Democrat is a former congressman. The county parties run the show,” he wrote on X.

One issue looming as New York prepares for several close House races is a new congressional map, courtesy of the state’s independent redistricting commission. After a lengthy legal battle, the Court of Appeals ruled last year that the panel needs to redraw the state’s House lines and submit them to the Legislature, which could have significant implications for the 2024 races.

Though Suozzi ran using the map already in place, he will be defending his seat in November under new district lines. The commission is scheduled to meet Thursday and is expected to vote on a new map proposal.

Dave Wasserman, senior editor of Cook Political Report, thinks Suozzi will likely face an easier race in November following state Democrats’ successful challenge against the old map.

“There’s speculation the commission’s Democrats could seek GOP support for a plan that shores up Suozzi and Hudson Valley Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan (NY-18) while protecting several GOP incumbents. One way or another, there’s a decent chance Suozzi will end up with a more favorable district by November,” he wrote in his analysis of Tuesday’s results.

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