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New Yorkers voting to replace ex-Rep. George Santos in crucial special election

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Voting signs are seen outside city hall for New York’s 3rd Congressional District special election in Glen Cove, N.Y., on Sunday, February 4, 2024.

Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

New Yorkers are casting ballots Tuesday to pick their successor to Republican ex-Rep. George Santos, who was expelled from Congress last year under a cloud of scandals and criminal charges.

Democrat Tom Suozzi, who previously represented New York’s 3rd Congressional District, is facing off against Republican Mazi Pilip, in a special election to fill the seat left vacant by Santos’ ouster.

Polls show a tight race between Suozzi and Pilip in the district, which covers parts of Long Island and Queens.

At the national level, both parties are pouring millions of dollars into the contest, but Democrats have spent twice as much as Republicans on advertising — $13 million in total over just 10 weeks, according to The New York Times.

Democrats might typically hold an advantage in a special election to replace a disgraced Republican who has been denounced by his own party. At a glance, the 3rd District might even look like an ideal battleground for Democrats, who have recently made strong advances in American suburbs.

But Long Island has proved an exception, trending redder during the Biden administration. Including the seat most recently held by Santos, Republicans represent all four Nassau County-area congressional districts.

So it’s no surprise that national Republicans are working to keep Santos’ district red and avoid further narrowing the party’s already razor-thin majority in the House.

Democrats, meanwhile, see the seat as a crucial step in their plan to retake the House majority, as well as an opportunity to test drive some political messaging early in the election year.

Pilip, a Nassau County legislator, has worked to make the race a referendum on immigration, a galvanizing issue for Republicans across the country — and one that has rankled New York leaders in recent months.

Suozzi has taken a harder line on immigration than many of his fellow Democrats running for Congress, and he has countered Pilip’s attacks by blasting her as an extremist for opposing a bipartisan border deal.

Democrats have also sought to tie Pilip to Santos, who had been shunned by his own constituents long before he was booted from his seat.

In addition to fighting each other, Suozzi and Pilip are contending with another challenge: a major storm that began overnight and has already dumped multiple inches of snow on New York City.

The storm, which is shaping up to be the city’s most severe in two years, took a toll on rush-hour traffic and could affect turnout later in the day.

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Last year, a federal grand jury in Long Island charged Santos with an array of crimes, including spending campaign contributions on personal luxury goods and lying on his House financial disclosure forms.

He pleaded not guilty to those charges and another raft of allegations that were added to his case five months later.

Santos had served just 11 months in Congress by the time he was expelled. His criminal trial is set for mid-September.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.

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