Mazi Pilip-Tom Suozzi in NY-03 now a must-watch race around the U.S.

NEW YORK — The special election to replace former Long Island congressman George Santos has turned into a big bucks slugfest that has taken on national importance.

You might say it is a race within a race, because picking a replacement for Santos is only part of what’s at stake next Tuesday. The outcome could affect the fall elections, in which Democrats are targeting six freshman Republicans from New York.

“Illegal immigrants arriving by the busload. Why? Because Tom Suozzi repeatedly weakened America’s borders,” a Mazi Pilip attack ad says.

READ MORERepublican Mazi Pilip running to replace expelled congressman George Santos: “It’s about the future of our country”

Republican Pilip, an Ethiopian immigrant who served in the Israeli Army, hopes her ads will land like a Scud missile on Democratic opponent Tom Suozzi. And since Suozzi doesn’t have an Iron Dome defense system like Israel, he has been forced to play defense on what is a central issue in the special election.

“Tom Suozzi will work with both parties to close illegal immigration routes but open paths to citizenship to those who follow the rules,” a Suozzi ad says.

READ MORE3rd Congressional District candidate Tom Suozzi vows to sit down and find common ground with Republicans if elected

It’s the punch and counter punch that’s brought a stunning amount of campaign cash into the 3rd Congressional District, which spans parts of Queens and the Gold Coast of Long Island. It includes millions raised by outside groups as Republicans seek to preserved their razor-thin margin in the House and Democrats hope to reverse a string of dramatic losses on Long Island.

Democrats have spent over $10 million so far, while Republicans have forked over $6.6 million.

I think it’s actually more money that is even approximately plausible or needed in this kind of election,” said Grant Lally, publisher of the North Shore Leader.

Lally knows a lot about money and politics. It was his newspaper that first exposed the lies and financial shenanigans that led Congress to expel Santos.

“The millions of dollars being spent is an indication of how important — not just Long Islanders and Queens residents feel about this, but Democrats and Republicans all over the country,” said Lawrence Levy, dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

READ MOREThe Point: Democrat Tom Suozzi aims to buck Long Island’s red wave in race to replace ex-Rep. George Santos

This issues raised by Suozzi and Pilip — immigration, abortion rights, support for Israel — are also being carefully calculated and scrutinized because the strategies used in this special election could be the strategies adopted in November when control of the House will be on the line.

“Operatives all over the country are looking to see what strategies, what tactics, particularly what messages are working and what isn’t working,” Levy said. “But it’s really about positioning and understanding what they need to do come November, when there will be 30 or 40 seats up for grabs that will definitely determine who controls Congress.”

Since this is a special election, the ground game, getting voters to the polls, is everything. Since early voting started Saturday, about 28,000 votes have been cast out of the 760,000 voters in the district. Early voting will continue through Sunday.

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