Despite Victory in New York Special Election, Warning Signs Flash for Democrats in Result Margin

Despite Victory in New York Special Election, Warning Signs Flash for Democrats in Result Margin
A voter casts a ballot at a polling station inside Robert Finley Middle School in Glen Cov
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty

As the saying goes, a win is a win in an election—and the Democrats certainly got one in New York’s third congressional district special election on Tuesday evening.

But the margin by which former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) won back his old seat should leave Democrats wondering if they have a major problem headed into November.

First and foremost, the GOP candidate in the special election to succeed the ousted now former Rep. George Santos (R-NY)—Mazi Pilip—was hopelessly flawed. A Democrat that Republicans recruited to run in the hastily organized special election, Pilip had little name identification in the area and she actively avoided support from former President Donald Trump at all costs. Trump made his dissatisfaction with her clear in a Truth Social post late on Tuesday evening, noting that she did badly in that race with the number of mistakes. What’s more, some New York Republicans have noted to Breitbart News in the aftermath of this race that this was the first time in New York that new mail ballot rules were in place—and an election day snowstorm undercut Republicans’ get-out-the-vote operations. These are things Republicans are going to need to fix heading into the general election later this year.

But even so, despite Pilip’s obvious and apparent flaws and mistakes during the campaign, Republicans performed much better margin-wise than the 2020 congressional election in this district.

With 93 percent of the votes reported early Wednesday afternoon according to the New York Times, Pilip’s close to final vote total was 78,229. Suozzi’s was 91,338. That means Suozzi had 53.9 percent and Pilip had 46.1 percent. That means the margin—again this may change slightly depending on who wins the outstanding as-of-yet-to-be-counted votes—was a 7.8 percent Democrat victory.

That’s far less than Suozzi’s last win, in the 2020 congressional race, against none other than Santos himself. Back then, Suozzi won by 16.4 percent—running more than 8 points better than Democrat President Joe Biden’s 2020 win in the district. Biden beat Trump by 8 there in 2020.

Now, Republicans in 2022 pulled off a historic upset when Santos came back and won it against Democrat Rob Zimmerman. (Suozzi had stepped aside.) That year, Santos won by nearly 10 percent—53.74 percent to 46.22 percent. There were a number of factors that led to GOP over-performance that year, the first of them being Suozzi was not running for a seat he had consistently won by double digits since his first election in 2016, when he won by just under 6 percent. In 2018, for instance, Suozzi won by 18 percent before, as mentioned above, winning in 2020 by just over 16 percent.

Another 2022 factor working in the GOP’s favor in New York that year was a historically strong gubernatorial candidate in then-Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) who won that district by 10 points against equally historically weak Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul. Hochul had assumed the governorship under unique circumstances when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was forced to resign amid multiple scandals.

So, again, the 2024 special election margin by which Suozzi beat Pilip looks a lot more like the 2016 win he had in his first election to the seat, at least in terms of the percentage by which he won — if not raw vote total — than it looks like 2018 or 2020. All the proper caveats belong here, though, which is that turnout was far less in the special election—as one could expect—than it is in a regularly scheduled general election. In 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022, turnout was anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 votes higher than this special election. What’s more, special elections are just that—special—so there’s only so much one can read into them for tea leaves going into a general election.

But if these percentages are a harbinger of what’s coming in November, Democrats might be in real trouble—especially if the margins for them look a lot more like 2016 than 2018 or 2020. Only time will tell, but this might have only been a pyrrhic victory for them.


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