The Justice Department issued a new incitement against Republican Rep. George Santos on Tuesday for, in the words of U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, allegedly "stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization, lying to the FEC and, by extension, the public about the financial state of his campaign."
Peace continued, "Santos falsely inflated the campaign’s reported receipts with non-existent loans and contributions that were either fabricated or stolen." The new 23-count indictment came days after Santos' former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty to helping her boss fake $53,200 in donations and a $500,000 loan so his campaign would look stronger financially than it really was in order to impress national Republicans.
The charges were filed hours after former Rep. Tom Suozzi joined the Democratic contest to take on his scandal-ridden predecessor in New York's 3rd District. Suozzi, who has a long electoral history in Long Island, dispelled speculation that he'd only run if there was a special election by saying he was filing "to run for Congress in November of 2024."
However, it still remains to be seen whether primary voters will be the ones deciding Suozzi's future. Santos' resignation or expulsion would set off a special election for the 3rd, and it would then be up to each party's local leaders to pick their nominees. Complicating things further is the possibility that the state's court-imposed congressional map could change depending on the result of a pending lawsuit.
Suozzi, a moderate who left the House last cycle to wage a failed primary bid against Gov. Kathy Hochul, joins a busy field of Democrats, and one of them made it clear just how unhappy she is about his latest comeback attempt. "After almost a year of this district having embarrassing representation, Tom Suozzi thinks voters on Long Island have forgotten that he abandoned us to George Santos," said former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, who lost the 2016 primary to Suozzi under the previous lines.
Kaplan, notes Gothamist, also referenced a 2006 Suozzi plan to reduce abortions by promoting policies like birth control, adoption, and abstinence, a plan that NARAL Pro-Choice New York slammed at the time. Suozzi identified himself as a supporter of abortion rights back then and has continued to identify this way, but Kaplan made it clear she sees his record differently. "The Democratic Party is a pro-choice party," she said in her statement, "and unlike Tom Suozzi, I will always stand up for a woman's right to choose—period."
The field also includes Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who took third place in last year's primary despite an endorsement from Suozzi; Gramercy Surgery Center CEO Austin Cheng; and nonprofit founder Zak Malamed. Several Republicans are also challenging Santos for renomination, though it's anyone's guess if the scandal-drenched incumbent will even be in office by the time primary voters would render their judgment.
Joe Biden would have carried this seat, which includes northern Nassau County and a portion of Queens, 54-45, but this area lurched hard to the right after that campaign. Republican Lee Zeldin beat Hochul here 56-44, according to numbers from Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, and Santos won 54-46 weeks before his false life story began to unravel.
Suozzi's attempt to return to the House marks the newest chapter in a career that has seen some big successes and dire lows. In 2001, he made history when he became the first Democrat to win the Nassau County executive's office in more than 30 years, a victory that marked the end of the old and once-all powerful local Republican machine.
But while Suozzi won reelection four years later, what followed was a disastrous decade that saw him lose the 2006 primary for governor to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in an 82-18 wipeout; his 2009 reelection campaign to Republican Ed Mangano in a 386-vote shocker; and his 2013 rematch with Mangano in a 59-41 landslide. (We took a closer look at all three of those races in our 2021 writeup.)
Suozzi's career looked over after that third defeat, but he unexpectedly got the chance for one more comeback in 2016 when Democratic Rep. Steve Israel decided to retire. The former executive took part in a crowded Democratic primary and beat Israel's endorsed candidate, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern, 35-22 despite being decisively outspent. (The aforementioned Kaplan was in fourth with 16%.) Suozzi went on to win a competitive general election against Republican state Sen. Jack Martins 53-47 as Hillary Clinton was carrying his seat by a similar 52-46 spread, and this time, he had no trouble winning reelection.
Suozzi had little trouble holding his new post, and he even beat the little-known Santos 56-43 in 2020, but he wasn't content to stay put. He responded to disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2021 resignation, and Hochul's subsequent elevation, by mulling a second campaign for the top job. Suozzi, after briefly considering becoming a New York City deputy mayor rather than running for office, ended up challenging Hochul with a call to cut taxes, hire more police officers, and modify the state's landmark 2019 bail reform law.
Suozzi's second statewide effort, however, went about as well as the first. Hochul beat Jumaane Williams, the New York City public advocate challenging her from the left, 67-19, while Suozzi secured just 13%. Santos would go on to flip his seat months later, and he took office despite the many scandals surrounding him: Suozzi used his last day in office to publish a New York Times op-ed titled, "A Con Man Is Succeeding Me in Congress Today.”