Suozzi’s win: examining the voting dynamics


This is the first in a series delving into the complexities of elections to provide a better understanding of one of Americans’ most precious privileges, the right to vote.

Democrat Tom Suozzi, the former three-term representative for the 3rd Congressional District, will be returning to the House of Representatives after winning the Feb. 13 special election. Suozzi left Congress in 2022 to run for governor, but lost in the Democratic primary.
Although Suozzi, 61, is familiar to voters, a lifelong Glen Cove resident who served as Nassau County executive from 2022 to 2029 and as Glen Cove’s mayor from 1994 to 2001, his name recognition did not lead to a landslide victory last week. But his 8-point win over Republican Mazi Pilip was impressive, according to James Scheuerman, the Democratic commissioner of the Nassau County Board of Elections.
“It was definitely a decisive win for the party, a credit to the candidate and the ground game by the Nassau County Democratic Committee,” Scheuerman said.
And although Pilip, 44, a Democrat from Great Neck, is a second-term county legislator representing District 10, prior to Election Day, many voters told the Herald they knew nothing about her. Her decision to rarely speak publicly, and to debate Suozzi only once — five days before the election — apparently did not win over many voters.

And Pilip’s comment that she would not support former President Donald Trump in his bid for re-election if he were convicted of a crime may have led some Republicans to vote for Suozzi, or not vote at all.
Tony Lagos, a Queens resident who voted for Pilip, said he didn’t find the election

results surprising.
“I think she lost because a lot of people didn’t hear from her,” Lagos, the owner of Glen Cove’s Burger Boys Bar & Grill, said. “And she didn’t jump on that Trump wagon.”
There were several challenges for both Suozzi and Pilip in the 3rd C.D., which encompasses all of the North Shore as well as Levittown, Massapequa and northeastern Queens. The first was that the election season was short — just 70 days — forcing the candidates to decide on their strategies quickly.
But an even bigger challenge was the nature of special elections, which are known for low voter turnout. And campaigning for one in the dead of winter made the outcome even more uncertain. Harsh weather could keep voters at home.
The candidates were hoping that district residents’ dissatisfaction with expelled Republican Congressman George Santos would move them to vote for his replacement regardless of the weather.
Betsy Davidson, press secretary for Suozzi’s campaign, said she didn’t think there would be many obstacles to victory because of voters’ disgust with Santos. But Davidson never underestimated the potential impact of, say, a well-timed snowstorm.
“Voter turnout even on a nice June day for a special election would be tough,” she said. “So we really worked on early voting early.” The Suozzi team encouraged early voting on social media, Davidson added, always including voting locations and their hours. “And on Friday, at the very hint of snow, we decided to go for it and get people to go out and vote.”
And a commitment by the Suozzi campaign to get as many voters as possible to either mail in an absentee ballot or vote early clearly paid off. Early voting gave Democrats the edge when 24,196 party members voted before Election Day. Far fewer Republicans — 19,876 — did the same, Scheuerman said.
Democrats were also successful in persuading voters to mail in absentee ballots, with 6,510 received by Election Day. Republicans counted only 3,426.
Dakota Leary, of Oyster Bay, who voted for Pilip, said he wasn’t surprised that she lost, and attributed the result to the sheer number of Democrats on Long Island. Leary, a Republican and a construction worker, said he always votes for his party’s choice.
“It makes more sense to me financially, as far as taxes go and things like that,” he said. “As far as working in construction, there’s generally a lot more work going on when there’s Republicans in charge, as far as I’ve seen.”
But not all Republicans voted for Pilip. Mark Hopkinson, of Laurel Hollow, cited Pilip’s inexperience as one of the reasons he voted for Suozzi.
“And from what she’s been saying, I think she toes the line for partisan politics, which is something that our country can’t afford at this point,” Hopkinson said. “Tom Suozzi, on the other hand, has been a centrist; he’s not on the extreme left or right. He’s somebody who wants to get the job done, and that’s why I voted for him.”
Some voters attributed Pilip’s loss to her stance on issues, including abortion and the banning of assault weapons. Pilip didn’t define her position on assault weapons at the Feb. 8 debate with Suozzi on News12. She said only that she would ban automatic rifles, which has already existed for decades.
As for her stance on abortion, she repeatedly said that although she was pro-life, she would not push her beliefs on others or support a prohibition on a national level.
“She was against abortion,” Roni Chastain, a Glen Cove Democrat, said. “As a retired registered nurse, I know that women’s care isn’t just about abortions. I wouldn’t vote for anyone who is quote ‘right to life,’ because they’re really not right to life, they’re ‘right to birth.’ You know, they want to ban abortion, but they don’t want to do a thing about the assault weapons, which kill more children in this country than in any other country.”
Janet Viel, a Democrat who also voted for Suozzi, agreed. “Pilip was against abortion. And I’m totally against that,” the Glen Cove resident said. “I mean, I have granddaughters, and I’d hate to think that if something happened with one of them and they needed to have an abortion, they’d be told that they couldn’t get it.”
Viel also said she wasn’t surprised that Suozzi won, describing him as a “good person who knows what he’s doing.”
Lagos said that Pilip’s stance on abortion wasn’t the reason she lost. “She has no control over that,” Lagos said. “She can’t change the laws in New York.”
Suozzi, who comes from a family of politicians, has a record, Lagos added, having been an elected leader for so many years.
“What is her record? She never had a record,” he said of Pilip. “You can’t talk about something that you have no idea about.”
But Leary said he believed her stance on abortion did hurt Pilip. “I think it was a lot of the focus and advertisements on the abortion issue,” he said. “People feel very strongly about that.”
Hopkinson confirmed what many voters are experiencing with elected leaders: party-based partisanship so ironclad that it pushes aside the electorate’s needs.
“By and large, the folks in this particular district are sick and tired of people that aren’t willing to work with both sides to get the job done,” Hopkinson said. “So I think Tom’s track record was something that was demonstrative — that he will do what he has to do to get the job done. That was his catch(phrase) during the campaign, and I think he’s right.”

Additional reporting by Roksana Amid and Will Sheeline.