George Santos Dismisses His Latest Rival As Democrats Line Up To Take Him On

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 25: Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the Capitol Hill Club on Wednesday, January 25, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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On Tuesday morning, New York Democrat Tom Suozzi, a former congressman, made it official: He’s running for the House seat currently filled by scandalized Rep. George Santos (R-NY). In an announcement posted to social media, Suozzi cited the “absurdity” of Santos’ continued presence on Capitol Hill. 

“Today, I’m filing a committee to run for Congress in November 2024. The Madness in Washington, DC, and the absurdity of George Santos remaining in Congress is obvious to everyone,” Suozzi said.

Suozzi is a high profile opponent. Santos’ seat is the product of redistricting maps that took effect last year, but it includes much of the district Suozzi represented for three terms. Suozzi previously beat Santos in the old district in 2020. That race was Santos’ first. However, in text messages to TPM, Santos brushed off his once-and-future rival and suggested Suozzi will not be able to emerge from the crowded field of Democrats who are eyeing the seat amid the legal drama and scandals that have consumed Santos since he was elected late last year.

“He won’t clear his primary,” Santos said of Suozzi. 

Suozzi, who has said he will discuss the race further after local elections next month, declined to comment on this story. 

Asked to elaborate, Santos cited the unsuccessful gubernatorial bid Suozzi mounted last year. In that race, Suozzi was defeated by the current governor, Democrat Kathy Hochul, by over 50 points

“He pissed off every New York Democrat by running against Kathy and smearing her,” Santos said of Suozzi. 

Santos also pointed out that Suozzi lost to Hochul in the Long Island county where much of his district is located. 

The 2022 gubernatorial race came after longtime Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid his own series of scandals. Suozzi’s decision to enter that race meant vacating his House seat –  a move that paved the way for Santos.

Santos’ success — and the lack of scrutiny his candidacy received – was enabled, in part, by the fact that last year was an unusual one in New York politics. Along with Cuomo’s shock resignation, there was a court fight over the House district lines that saw them announced effectively in the middle of the cycle. The shifting lines scrambled the candidates on Long Island and contributed to a favorable climate for Republicans. While Hochul won the race thanks to support from the overwhelmingly Democratic residents of New York City, she performed poorly in the Long Island suburbs and Republicans won a slew of races there.  

Amid all of the chaos and without an incumbent, Santos and his campaign did not receive much scrutiny. Local papers had pointed out some of the issues with Santos’ candidacy, but the fact that he had lied about his resume, had ties to an alleged pyramid scheme, and had campaign finance reports studded with irregularities did not garner widespread attention until after he won the seat last November. 

Along with negative headlines, since taking office Santos has been consumed by legal drama. Santos was indicted in May on fraud and money laundering charges related to unemployment benefits he obtained and an accusation from prosecutors that he “pocketed campaign contributions and used that money to pay down personal debts and buy designer clothing.” Last week, Nancy Marks, Santos’ campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge related to her work on his team. The indictment against Marks suggested that she and Santos participated in a scheme to file false reports in order to help him qualify for financial and logistical support from Republican organizations. 

While Santos was not charged along with Marks, the case raised the specter of further legal drama for the embattled congressman. Though he has admitted to lying about his past, Santos has vowed to fight the charges against him and cast them as attacks from “the political establishment elites and corrupt bias media.”

Despite Santos’ desire to fight, the wild drama and legal trouble has attracted a handful of Democrats eager to take his place. Suozzi’s entry into the field makes five Democratic candidates who have announced bids for the seat and more are rumored to be considering entering the fray. 

Though Santos is insisting he will not resign, his rivals are widely considered to be preparing for a potential special election in the event of his ouster. Democrats may be prepping for Santos to be removed, but House Republican leadership, which is, of course, in flux, has previously signaled he would not be forced out of office despite his unprecedented suite of problems. 

Even as he is squarely in the spotlight, facing a court case, and surrounded by rivals, Santos is projecting confidence and being bullish about his chances. As he dismissed Suozzi, Santos hinted at his internal poll numbers and suggested the former congressman was only considering the race because none of the other Democrats have a chance.

“If he’s jumping in,” Santos told TPM of Suozzi. “I’m sure it’s because he’s seeing the same polling I am …”

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