After Mazi, What’s Next For Nassau GOP?



When the Patriots entered the Super Bowl in 2007, they walked in with a 18-0 record.  Every commentator said they were unbeatable.  The first undefeated team since the 1972 Dolphins was about to put the crown on their momentous achievement.  The New York Giants, however, came to play, and they were victorious.  

This is how many Nassau County Republicans felt going into the special election race between Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi.  Nassau Republicans have been on an incredible hot streak, gaining city and town seats on every level for four years.  Republicans have the most control in Nassau since 1971, a year before the infamous Dolphins season.  So where did it go wrong this time?

It’s undeniable that George Santos himself was a factor in this election.  When the Republicans pushed for and allowed his expulsion from Congress, it was likely done on a simple calculation.  Losing a seat in a Special Election was preferable to going into the 2024 race with Santos still in Congress.  They were playing the hand they were dealt, and it’s impossible to forecast how these things will turn out.  The low voter turnout for this special election could be attributed to Santos voters’ disillusionment with the local Republican Party.

A larger factor, however, was the sheer number of dollars that poured into this race.  A reported $22 million was spent on this race, with Democrats spending over 60% of that total, at $13.8 million to Republicans’ $8.1 million.  Every other ad on local channels was devoted to this race, so much so that voters from surrounding districts assumed that they had an election that day as well.  The Democrats brought in union leaders from around the country to door knock and get the word out to go vote for him.  

Suozzi also went into this election with far more name recognition.  He was mayor of Glen Cove from 1994-2001 and then County Executive of Nassau from 2002-2009.  He was elected to Congress in 2016 and didn’t seek re-election in 2022, opting instead to challenge Kathy Hochul for the Democratic nomination for Governor (in which he placed third).  Mazi, on the other hand, was elected to County Legislature in 2021 in Great Neck, which was her largest base of support, but was relatively unknown outside of that area.  Republicans had less than two months to compete with three decades of campaigning.

In terms of campaign strategy, Suozzi actually ran against Joe Biden.  His campaign slogan of “Let’s Fix This” was overtly aimed at Republicans in the House, yet had the obvious undertones of how big a failure Biden has been as President.  From border to inflations to wars abroad and division at home, Suozzi didn’t mention Biden by name (he even refused an endorsement from him), but it was clear who the cause of all of these problems was. Suozzi also billed himself as someone who would take the Squad and the extreme Left in the House to task, even though he has no history of doing so in the past.  Democrat voters who have been turned off the party resonated to the message of a party insider changing from within.

Critics of Nassau GOP claim that not embracing Trump and “MAGA” cost the election for Mazi.  There is little evidence to support this.  Joe Biden won the district by eight points, and Lee Zeldin, who did not embrace Trump when running in 2022, won it by double digits.  George Santos, who is much more in that camp, won it by a smaller margin than Zeldin did.  Voters in the district do prefer Republicans to Democrats, but it looks like the turnout was low without a larger name at the top of the ballot. 

This seat is up for reelection this November, along with 434 other House seats.  Republicans can easily take it back under the right conditions.  Trump is at the top of the ballot, so the turnout will be far higher.  That will benefit the Republican nominee, as the district has more default R voters than showed up this time.  This coming election will also not have the benefit for the Democrats of national funding and volunteers, as it is not the only election in the country.  Republicans can lean on their well-earned base of support for the candidate. Most importantly, by the time November comes around, it can be an entirely different district, considering the lines have been fighting in the courts for several years now.  Whoever the candidate for Republicans is, however, they need to start campaigning right now.  Suozzi is the incumbent, and he won’t go down without a fight.  

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