When a tight race occurs, it is typical for the candidates to associate their opponents with seemingly unpopular figures within their party. If one listens to advertisements from Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip, it would appear that she is running against former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leftist “Squad,” and undocumented migrants.

Her actual opponent is Tom Suozzi, the former Nassau County Executive who previously represented New York’s Third Congressional District until 2022 and is seeking to recapture the seat covering Northeast Queens and the North Shore of Nassau County.

“Tom Suozzi asked to join the socialist ‘Squad’ and AOC said, ‘You’re in,’” one Pilip video announced, followed by examples of Suozzi raising taxes and expelling immigration enforcement officers out of Nassau County with images of crowds marching on a highway and police lights in the dark, followed by the contrasting narrative of Pilip as the IDF veteran who would be “the Squad’s worst nightmare.”

Pelosi stepped down from the Speaker’s podium in 2022, recognizing that the time was right for a younger voice in her party, but as Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jeffries lacks name recognition among cable news viewers and social media consumers, she remains the scarecrow of Republican campaigns, along with “the Squad.”

Suozzi has been countering Pilip’s message with personal appearances that include numerous invitations for Pilip to debate him. For every civic association and media outlet that offered the two candidates a stage for a debate, Pilip’s absence shows that she is not a fighter in the political sense.

When her message sounds nearly identical to those used by her party colleagues in the previous Congressional election year, one should ask: What makes her the standout candidate, aside from her background and identity? Would she vote in lockstep with Speaker Mike Johnson on abortion, gun control, and foreign aid? How does she feel about Donald Trump’s potential return to the White House and his promise to pardon all participants in the January 6 insurrection?

The Republican Party would like voters to forget about George Santos, who also ran as a “diversity” candidate, the openly gay son of Brazilian immigrants. But after taking his seat, he cozied up to Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor-Green, the social media firebrands of the party’s far-Right. It would be fair to ask whether Pilip would speak up against her party’s “squad” of gun-rights absolutists, conspiracy theorists, and abortion opponents, or sit alongside them without hesitation. Would she call out Thomas Massie, the Kentucky isolationist who opposes aid to Israel, or would she only do so when it comes to the leftist “Squad”?

There are political consultants who feel that rebutting an opponent’s ad is counterproductive, as it gives more airtime to the opponent and fails to give attention to issues prioritized by the candidate. But Suozzi is not the product of consultants; he can speak without a script and refute Pilip’s ads with examples from experience and taking on the issue.

In 2018, Tom Suozzi was one of 18 House Democrats to vote for a resolution that supported Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its agents and denounced calls to abolish the agency. At the time, he defended his vote in an interview on Fox News, which is usually associated with conservative audiences.

“I’ll work across the aisle to do what our leaders haven’t – secure our border,” he said in a recent video ad. “Close the routes used for illegal immigration, but open paths to citizenship for those willing to follow the rules and pay a fee to help finance it all.”

Last week, Suozzi spoke on this topic before a civic association in Whitestone. “The fact that it’s as bad as it is right now may be the best thing that happened to us, because it may finally force Washington to make a deal,” he said. “It’s not just a border crisis. It’s a Washington, DC, crisis.”

When a freshman lawmaker arrives in Washington, rewards for loyalty to senior colleagues include choice committee assignments, having the freshman’s bills advanced to the floor, and more funding for projects in the district. With his prior experience in Congress, that includes his leading of a bipartisan caucus, Suozzi would not be a freshman, but rather the statesman who can pass legislation with votes from members of both parties, maintain support for Israel and Ukraine among Democrats, and pass reforms on immigration, healthcare, and gun control that are favored by most Americans.

Voters have their party affiliations and political preferences, but these do not always align. When Republican leaders refuse to confirm judges or support border funding only because they come from a Democratic president, voters see it as partisanship. They expect compromise rather than zero-sum battles. From his experience on town, county, and federal levels, Tom Suozzi can produce results in this very divisive political climate.


Early voting in the Third Congressional District begins on February 3 and continues through Sunday, February 11, with the last day for in-person voting on February 13. This highly watched special election is regarded as a forerunner of the upcoming presidential contest that will occur later this year.

 By Sergey Kadinsky